Led by state-qualifying finishes by Ellie Ulvin and Emma Vrieze, the Park Rapids girls swimming team moved up a spot from last year to finish fourth at the Section 8A meet at Grand Rapids on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Ulvin won the section title in the 50-yard freestyle with a lifetime best of 24.76 while Ulvin and Vrieze went 1-2 in the 100-yard freestyle with respective lifetime bests of 55.15 and 56.14 to qualify for state as the Panthers will be represented at the Class A meet for the 26th consecutive season.
Ulvin and Vrieze just missed advancing to state in the 400-yard freestyle relay as that duo teamed with Savana Damar and Aleah Voigt to place third in 3:47.73. Voigt also contended for state berths in two other events by placing third in the 200-yard individual medley with a lifetime best of 2:20.66 and fourth in the 100-yard backstroke with a lifetime best of 1:03.29. Vrieze, Damar, Lizzie Seifert and Ulvin also placed fourth in the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:44.36.
Those efforts led the Panthers to fourth place in the section standings with 291 points, 1 point behind Bemidji’s 292 total for third place. Grand Rapids claimed the section title with 439 points while defending champion Detroit Lakes was second in the 10-team meet with 419 points.
The section champion and runner-up in each swimming event and the top four divers qualified for the state meet, which will hold diving preliminaries on Thursday (Nov. 14) and swimming preliminaries on Friday (Nov. 15) with the finals set for Saturday (Nov. 16) at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
Park Rapids received another honor when Megan Helms and Sarah Heise were named the Section 8A Assistant Coaches of the Year.
“I thought the whole team swam really, really well,” said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze, whose team placed fifth last season with 236 points. “It was an extremely fast meet. Going your lifetime best is all you can do. I was extremely proud of the girls.”
The Panthers had a solid start to the section meet by advancing all three relays and 10 individuals to the finals while sending 13 individuals to the consolation finals during the preliminaries.
Aleah Voigt, Massie Lee, Analise Smee and Damar opened preliminaries by placing fifth in the 200 medley relay in 2:00.26.
Three swimmers advanced to the consolation finals in the 200 freestyle with Chloe Voigt placing 10th in 2:08.58, Smee placing 11th in 2:09.07 and Seifert placing 12th in 2:10.49. Jess Kaseman missed out on advancing by placing 20th in 2:19.32.
In the 200 individual medley, Aleah Voigt was third in 2:22.18 and Lee was sixth in 2:27.05 to qualify for the finals. Missing the cut were Maya Deshayes (18th in 2:36.66) and Mylee Edevold (21st in 2:37.59).
Ulvin and Vrieze reached the finals in the 50 freestyle. Ulvin was fourth in 25.69 and Vrieze finished sixth in 25.83. Addison Lauwagie earned a spot in the consolation finals by placing 15th in 27.45 while Bagstad was 27th in 28.90.
Park Rapids advanced three in the 100 butterfly as Smee (seventh in 1:04.45) and Damar (eighth in 1:05.04) reached the finals while Mary Rose Nichols earned a spot in the consolation finals by placing 15th in 1:09.36. Nora Cederstrom finished 24th in 1:21.16.
Ulvin and Vrieze led the field in the 100 freestyle as Ulvin clocked a winning time of 55.52 and Vrieze followed in 56.60. Edevold advanced to the consolation finals with a 1:02.11 for 16th place. Bagstad finished 19th in 1:02.89.
In the 500 freestyle, the Panthers sent all four swimmers to the second day as Chloe Voigt finished eighth in 5:49.85 to earn a spot in the finals while Seifert (10th in 5:58.54), Kaseman (13th in 6:01.62) and Deshayes (14th in 6:02.40) qualified for the consolation finals.
Vrieze, Damar, Seifert and Ulvin qualified for the finals in the 200 freestyle relay by placing fourth in 1:45.54.
Aleah Voigt’s fourth-place time of 1:03.36 led to a spot in the finals of the 100 backstroke while Lauwagie (13th in 1:09.86) advanced to the consolation finals. Maria Wagner just missed advancing after placing 17th in 1:11.20 while Claire Voigt was 24th in 1:16.12.
Earning spots in the consolation finals of the 100 breaststroke for the Panthers were Lee (10th in 1:16.20), Gabi Shepersky (12th in 1:17.30) and Nichols (16th in 1:18.79). Cederstrom finished 18th in 1:20.25.
Ulvin, Vrieze, Damar and Aleah Voigt ended preliminaries with a runner-up time of 3:48.79 in the 400 freestyle relay.
“That was one of the fastest preliminaries in a long time,” said Fritze. “This meet was so competitive. The girls had to swim lights out to get to the second day.”
Sending two swimmers to state in two events provided the main highlights for the Panthers during the finals.
Aleah Voigt (30.15 split in the backstroke), Lee (34.74 split in the breaststroke), Smee (28.49 split in the butterfly) and Damar (26.15 split in the freestyle) opened the finals by placing fifth in the 200 medley relay in 1:59.53 for 28 points. Grand Rapids took first in 1:52.53 and Detroit Lakes was second in 1:52.98.
The Panthers scored 17 points in the 200 freestyle behind Chloe Voigt (10th in 2:09.97), Smee (11th in 2:11.31) and Seifert (13th in 2:11.62). Grand Rapids’ Elsa Viren led the field in 1:59.12.
Aleah Voigt’s third-place time of 2:20.66 and Lee’s seventh-place time of 2:27.24 gave Park Rapids 28 points in the 200 individual medley. Detroit Lakes’ Jennifer Tracy was first in 2:12.88 and Fergus Falls’ Emilie Carlson was second in 2:17.61.
Ulvin won the 50 freestyle in 24.76, Vrieze was sixth in 25.76 and Lauwagie finished 15th in 27.71 as the Panthers scored 35 points. Thief River Falls’ Annika Dalager earned the other state berth with a runner-up 25.01.
Tracy broke her old section record of 58.82 set in 2017 with a 58.49 in the 100 butterfly while the Panthers added 26 points to their team score as Damar was seventh in 1:05.44, Smee finished eighth in 1:05.55 and Nichols took 14th in 1:10.08.
The 1-2 showing by Ulvin (in 55.15) and Vrieze (in 56.14) in the 100 freestyle led to 38 more points. Edevold placed 16th in 1:02.69 while Detroit Lakes’ Chelsy Johnson was third in 57.08.
Viren claimed the section title in the 500 freestyle in 5:25.30. Leading the Panthers to 27 points in that event were Chloe Voigt (eighth in 5:49.93), Seifert (ninth in 5:53.19), Deshayes (13th in 6:02.14) and Kaseman (14th in 6:09.62).
The Panthers improved on their time in the 200 freestyle relay as Vrieze (26.35), Damar (26.49), Seifert (26.42) and Ulvin (25.10) teamed up for a 1:44.36 for fourth place and 30 points. Grand Rapids took first in 1:41.24 to break Bemidji’s section record of 1:41.66 set in 2015 while Detroit Lakes followed in 1:41.50. Fergus Falls took third in 1:44.12..
Aleah Voigt contended for a state berth in the 100 backstroke before placing fourth in 1:03.29. Lauwagie finished 16th in 1:11.60 as Park Rapids scored 16 points in that event. Grand Rapids’ Alyssa Jackson led the field in 1:01.62, Detroit Lakes’ Lucy Steinke was second in 1:02.24 and Dalager took third in 1:02.35.
Shepersky (10th in 1:17.46), Lee (12th in 1:17.90) and Nichols (15th in 1:20.33) scored 14 points in the 100 breaststroke. Detroit Lakes’ Madi Gerdes finished first in 1:09.63.
Park Rapids just missed advancing to state in the 400 freestyle relay as Ulvin’s 55.79, Vrieze’s 56.66, Damar’s 57.88 and Aleah Voigt’s 57.40 led to a 3:47.73 for third place. Grand Rapids claimed the section title in 3:42.68 while Detroit Lakes was second in 3:44.11.
“I knew how fast we could be, but I underestimated how fast everyone else was,” said Fritze. “It was a very fast meet. I thought our girls swam great.”