Girls Swimming and Diving: Park Rapids defends Section 8A title behind dominating performances
The Panthers qualify seven individuals in 10 events for the state Class A meet.
WARROAD – Back-to-back dominating performances left no doubt which was the premier girls swimming and diving team in Section 8A this season.
Park Rapids followed a near perfect showing during the preliminaries with another solid team effort during the finals to easily win the Section 8A title at Warroad on Saturday, Nov. 12.
The Panthers repeated as section champions while qualifying seven individuals in 10 swimming and diving events for the state Class A meet.
Because of the threat of a winter storm, the diving portion of the section meet was moved to Park Rapids on Wednesday, Nov. 9. Sophomore Allie Rowland took advantage of diving at home by claiming her first state trip by placing fourth.
During the preliminaries of the swimming events on Friday (Nov. 11), the Panthers put themselves in position to retain the section title and send multiple swimmers to state with a dominating team effort. Park Rapids also delivered in the finals by qualifying for state in nine events. The Panthers clocked season best times and multiple personal best times during the preliminaries or finals in all three relays and in every swim except one.
The 200-yard medley relay set the tone as sophomore Addison Lauwagie, senior Massie Lee, sophomore Mylee Edevold and senior Emma Vrieze took first. Junior Lizzie Seifert followed with a runner-up finish in the 200 freestyle while Lee finished second in the 200 individual medley. After Vrieze won the 50 freestyle, Lauwagie led the field in the 100 butterfly and eighth grader Avery Schueller claimed the section title in the 100 freestyle. Lauwagie, Scheuller, Edevold and Vrieze won the 200 freestyle relay and Lee finished first in the 100 breaststroke before Lauwagie, Vrieze, Seifert and Schueller concluded the meet by winning the 400 freestyle relay.
“You can’t draw it up any better,” said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze, who was named the Section 8A Coach of the Year while Park Rapids’ Baylee Gartner was voted the Section 8A Assistant Coach of the Year. “You have to give our kids a lot of credit. They’ve been driven all year and they were focused. I’m thrilled for the girls. It was a fun weekend.”
After not advancing to the finals in any of their seven events last season, the Panthers will attempt to advance to the finals when this year’s state Class A meet begins with diving preliminaries at noon on Wednesday (Nov. 16) and swimming preliminaries at noon on Thursday (Nov. 16) at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The swimming and diving finals will be held on Friday (Nov. 17) at noon.
“We’re excited to get there, but now we have to perform better and at a higher level,” said Fritze. “Our goal is to swim the second day. That’s always our goal. It’s going to be tough, but anything can happen. We want to swim our best and hopefully good things will happen for us.”
Rowland qualifies for state in diving
PARK RAPIDS – Being able to dive on her home boards gave Rowland an advantage of earning her first trip to the state Class A meet.
“Hosting diving made it a lot more comfortable for her,” said Park Rapids diving coach Kristi Goochey. “She knew the boards. It’s always more comfortable whenever you’re diving in your home pool.”
That comfort zone paid off as Rowland claimed the final state berth by compiling a career best 341.40 points for fourth place. Perham/New York MIlls’ Brittney Lorentz won the section title with 423.15 ponts, teammate Avery McAllister was second with 378.40 points and Detroit Lakes’ Hope Hamm placed third with 364.15 points as all three returned to state.
“I knew all season that she had a chance. Watching Allie dive and improve all season, I knew that she had an opportunity. It came down to a couple of things. She had to be confident and keep her cool on the harder dives. She had to not worry about the other divers. And she had to dive like Allie dives,” said Goochey. “I was pretty confident going in because she had a great warm up. At the beginning of the season, one of her goals was to get to state before she graduated. It was a shock to her to finish fourth, but she was pretty excited.”
Rowland and Detroit Lakes’ Kylie Tulius battled it out for that final state berth. It came down to the 11th and final dive.
“Kylie and Allie both missed a few dives. I wasn’t watching the scores, but I knew it was neck-and-neck,” said Goochey. “Allie totally nails her 1 ½ every time. It’s her favorite dive and she had to nail it again. If she would have been off by an inch or two, it wasn’t going to happen. She held her emotions in control and nailed it.”
Tulius, who was a state qualifier last season, ended up placing fifth with 337.10 points.
Making some changes at the beginning of the season helped Rowland become the seventh diver in school history to qualify for state.
“Allie made a huge jump this year. We changed a lot of things this year. Changing her mechanics was huge. We rebuilt her approach and built up her strength. She came in with some high DD (degree of difficulty) dives, but we put in some higher DD dives,” said Goochey. “We prepared her for this from Day 1. She believed in me and became more comfortable and consistent and confident.”
With her long-term goal accomplished, Goochey is looking for Rowland to use her state debut as a building block for the future.
“I want Allie to go down there, get experience, have fun and do her best with zero stress,” said Goochey. “Her first five dives are ones she’s good at and comfortable with. There’s no pressure this year. I told her to go have fun. This year we’ll see how she does and we’ll try to make the cut and finish in the top 16 the next two years.”
Panthers excel in preliminaries
WARROAD – Fritze couldn’t have asked for a better showing from the Panthers during the preliminaries on Friday, Nov. 11.
The Panthers won all three relays while qualifying individuals for 26 races in the finals and four more for the consolation finals. Park Rapids had four swimmers in the top 8 in two events and three swimmers in the top 8 in the other six events. Out of 35 races, the Panthers advanced to the finals in 33 of them with every swimmer competing in an event.
Lauwagie, Lee, Edevold and Vrieze opened the preliminaries by winning the 200-yard medley relay in 1:58.16. The Panthers qualified all four swimmers for the finals in the next two events. Schueller (second in 2:03.64), Lizzie Seifert (third in 2:05.78) and Julia Grande (fifth in 2:11.91) reached the finals while Molly Cederstrom (ninth in 2:17.61) qualified for the consolation finals in the 200 freestyle while Lee (second in 2:24.95), Maya Deshayes (third in 2:26.37) and Amelia Bagstad (fifth in 2:28.32) made the finals while Gabi Shepersky (12th in 2:40.92) reached the consolation finals in the 200 individual medley.
In the 50 freestyle, Vrieze led the field in 25.62, Edevold was third in 26.44 and Whitney Seifert finished sixth in 27.31 to qualify for the finals. Maggie Randall finished 18th in 29.98. The Panthers qualified all four swimmers to the second day in the 100 butterfly with Edevold winning the race in 1:04.81 and Lauwagie following in 1:05.27. Nora Cederstrom also advanced to the finals by placing eighth in 1:09.42 while Maria Wagner was 12th in 1:14.14 to make the consolation finals.
Three swimmers qualified for the finals in the 100 freestyle, led by Schueller’s winning time of 55.86. Whitney Seifert was sixth in 59.97 and McKenzie Himango placed eighth in 1:00.26. Molly Cederstrom just missed advancing by placing 17th in 1:04.67. All four swimmers advanced to the finals in the 500 freestyle as Deshayes took third in 5:44.38, Lizzie Seifert was fourth in 5:48.77, Claire Voigt placed fifth in 5:53.79 and Grande was sixth in 6:04.63.
After Lauwagie, Schueller, Edevold and Vrieze won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:43.68, Bagstad (fourth in 1:07.91), Wagner (seventh in 1:10.52) and Voigt (eighth in 1:12.40) reached the finals while Randall (12th in 1:14.22) made the consolation finals in the 100 backstroke.
The Panthers sent all four swimmers to the finals in the 100 breaststroke as Lee took first in 1:13.76, Nora Cederstrom was third in 1:14.77, Himango took fifth in 1:17.09 and Shepersky placed seventh in 1:20.39. Lauwagie, Vrieze, Lizzie Seifert and Schueller capped off the preliminaries with a winning time of 3:49.83 in the 400 freestyle relay.
“Our goal was to win it (the section title) on the first day,” said Fritze. “We had to get kids in position to score and we did. All the kids made it back. We had an amazing first day.”
6 swimmers reach state in 9 events
The Panthers completed a trifecta as another dominating performance in the finals resulted in another title.
After repeating as the Section 8A True Team champions and winning the Mid-State Conference title earlier in the season, the Panthers added another trophy by defending their Section 8A title. Park Rapids followed a dominating effort during the preliminaries by having six swimmers earn state berths in the finals in compiling 561 points. Fergus Falls was a distant second in this seven-team field with 358.50 points. In all, the Panthers had seven members qualify for the state Class A meet in 10 events.
“I told the girls that we’re in a great spot, but we can’t let up,” said Fritze. “We swam so well (during prelims), we had to come back and perform at a high level again. The girls really raced and performed the second day.”
In addition to Rowland qualifying for state, freshman Grace Officer finished seventh with 273.90 points as the Panthers scored 27 points in that event on Wednesday.
The 200-yard medley relay set the tone for the swimming finals by winning that race in 1:57.06. Lauwagie, Lee, Edevold and Vrieze gave the Panthers 40 points in that event.
Lizzie Seifert qualified for state with a runner-up 2:04.03 in the 200 freestyle as Park Rapids scored 52 points in that race. Schueller (third in 2:04.61), Grande (seventh in 2:15.84) and Molly Cederstrom (10th in 2:18.55) also placed in that event.
Lee earned a state trip with a runner-up 2:23.52 in the 200 individual medley. Deshayes (fourth in 2:25.17), Bagstad (fifth in 2:26.77) and Shepersky (11th in 2:41.73) helped Park Rapids add 52 points to the team total.
Vrieze won the 50 freestyle in 25.28, Edevold was third in 26.32 and Whitney Seifert finished fifth in 27.20 for 50 more points.
Lauwagie led the field in the 100 butterfly in 1:03.09 while Edevold (third in 1:04.75), Nora Cederstrom (seventh in 1:10.14) and Wagner (11th in 1:14.15) produced 54 points. Schueller took first in the 100 freestyle in 56.85 in helping the Panthers score 46 points in that race. Himango was fifth in 1:00.04 and Whitney Seifert finished seventh in 1:00.23.
Park Rapids scored 57 points in the 500 freestyle behind Lizzie Seifert (third in 5:37.60), Deshayes (fourth in 5:49.87), Voigt (fifth in 5:57.75) and Grande (seventh in 6:12.58).
Another 40 points were earned after Lauwagie, Schueller, Edevold and Vrieze won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:43.18.
Bagstad (fourth in 1:08.43), Wagner (seventh in 1:12.18), Voigt (eighth in 1:13.32) and Randall (13th in 1:15.82) produced 42 points in the 100 backstroke before Lee led the way with a winning time of 1:13.60 in the 100 breaststroke. Nora Cederstrom (third in 1:14.60), Himango (sixth in 1:18.45) and Shepersky (seventh in 1:18.72) also placed as the Panthers scored 61 points in that event.
Lauwagie, Vrieze, Lizzie Seifert and Schueller scored the final 40 points by winning the 400 freestyle relay in 3:48.15.
“Winning the section title by more than 200 points is pretty amazing,” said Fritze. “They worked hard all season and they deserved it.”