Girls Swimming and Diving: Park Rapids' state qualifiers seek to advance to finals
The Panthers will compete at the Class A meet in 10 events.
After qualifying for the state girls swimming and diving meet last season, seniors Massie Lee and Emma Vrieze, junior Lizzie Seifert and sophomore Addison Lauwagie were determined to return this season. Sophomores Mylee Edevold and Allie Rowland along with eighth grader Avery Schueller were also hoping to advance to state for the first time.
All seven achieved their goals by combining to qualify for state in 10 events in helping Park Rapids repeat as Section 8A champions at Warroad on Nov. 12.
Vrieze and Lauwagie qualified in four events, Lee and Schueller advanced in three events, Seifert and Edevold qualified in two events and Rowland earned a state trip in diving. The Panthers swept the three relays with Lauwagie, Lee, Edevold and Vrieze winning the 200-yard medley; Lauwagie, Schueller, Edevold and Vrieze taking first in the 200-yard freestyle; and Lauwagie, Vrieze, Seifert and Schueller leading the way in the 400-yard freestyle. Rowland placed fourth in diving, Vrieze took first in the 50 freestyle, Lauwagie was the section champion in the 100 butterfly, Lee won the 100 breaststroke and finished second in the 200 individual medley, Seifert advanced with a runner-up showing in the 200 freestyle, and Schueller led the field in the 100 freestyle.
That group will enter the state meet with hopes of qualifying for the swimming and diving finals, which will be held on Friday (Nov. 18) at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
Even though all four state diving qualifiers from last season were back, Rowland entered the Section 8A meet calm and confident of securing a state berth this season.
Because of a threat of a winter storm, the diving portion of the section meet was moved to Park Rapids on Nov. 9. Rowland took advantage of diving on her home boards to lock up the fourth and final state bid.
The Perham/New York Mills duo of Brittany Lorentz and Avery McAllister along with Detroit Lakes’ Hope Hamm were expected to secure the top spots again after those three went 1-2-3 at last year’s section meet. Those three lived up to those expectations with Lorentz taking first with 423.15 points, McAllister finishing second with 378.40 points and Hamm placing third with 364.15 points.
That left Rowland and Detroit Lakes’ Kylie Tulius battling for the other state berth. Tulius tallied 355.05 points to claim fourth place at last year’s section meet as Rowland finished fifth with 304.75 points.
Rowland was confident she could make up that difference and delivered by placing fourth with a career best 341.40 points. Tulius was close behind with 337.10 points for fifth place.
“Before the season we made short-term and long-term goals and my long-term goal was to make it to state before I graduated. Midway through the season it hit me that I had a good shot at doing it this year,” said the Park Rapids sophomore. “I knew it was going to be between me and Kylie. I knew going in it was going to be all mental and I couldn’t get down on myself. I knew I had to stay positive and loose.”
That calm demeanor paid off as Rowland and Tulius were neck-and-neck the entire meet.
Rowland didn’t look at the scores until right before their final dives as the Park Rapids diver held a slim lead after 10 rotations. After Tulius nailed her final dive, Rowland knew what she had to do to become the seventh diver in school history to qualify for state.
“Before my last dive, I saw I had a 308 and Kylie had a 303,” said Rowland. “I had my favorite dive left and I told myself that I could do it.”
Rowland nailed that final dive, scoring 33.15 points to earn the final state berth.
“I had a feeling that I would surpass my highest score. I have higher DD (degree of difficulty) dives and I’ve been nailing some of those higher DD dives,” said Rowland. “I was surprised. I didn’t think it (my score) would be that high.”
After fulfilling her long-term goal, Rowland is looking to use her first trip to state to set a foundation for the next two years.
“I’m really excited to go to state,” said Rowland. “It’s going to be a great experience. I’m going to do my best, have fun, focus on getting experience, and watch and learn from some really, really good divers.”
Relays were ready
Going into the section meet, the Panthers were pretty confident of qualifying for state in all three relays.
All three relays easily met those expectations.
During the section preliminaries, Lauwagie (with a 31.13 split in the backstroke), Lee (with a 32.94 split in the breaststroke), Edevold (with a 28.71 split in the butterfly) and Vrieze (with a 25.38 split in the freestyle) took first in the 200 medley relay in 1:58.16, which was faster than their seed time of 2:02.40. Thief River Falls, which had the fastest seed time of 2:01.34, finished second in 2:00.27.
In the 200 freestyle relay, the Panthers entered with the fastest time of 1:45.10 and topped that as Lauwagie’s 26.13, Schueller’s 25.33, Edevold’s 26.62 and Vrieze’s 25.60 resulted in a 1:43.68. Fergus Falls was second in 1:46.24.
The Panthers also had the top seed time in the 400 freestyle relay with a 3:54.58. Lauwagie’s 57.62, Vrieze’s 57.38, Seifert’s 59.30 and Schueller’s 55.53 dropped that time to a 3:49.83 to advance to the finals as the No. 1 seed. Detroit Lakes was second in 3:53.86.
All three relays backed up those winning times in the finals.
Lauwagie (30.40), Lee (32.95), Edevold (28.51) and Vrieze (25.20) gave the Panthers the section title in the 200 medley relay with a 1:57.06. Thief River Falls followed in 1:58.12.
Park Rapids also dropped time in winning the 200 freestyle relay in 1:41.18 behind Lauwagie’s 26.59, Schueller’s 25.76, Edevold’s 26.41 and Vrieze’s 25.19. Fergus Falls was second in 1:45.53.
The Panthers easily completed the sweep in the 400 freestyle relay as Lauwagie’s 57.39, Vrieze’s 56.73, Seifert’s 57.50 and Schueller’s 56.53 resulted in a 3:48.15. Detroit Lakes was a distant second in 3:55.89.
Lauwagie and Vrieze swam on both of the Panthers’ state-qualifying freestyle relay teams last season while Seifert returned to state as a member of the 400 freestyle relay unit.
“I was confident in our training. I felt with how we trained all season and with our taper that it was going to be a good meet,” said Vrieze. “I was really excited to do three relays. It felt like a good way to round out my senior year. I felt our chances were pretty good.”
“We were all really ready,” said Lauwagie. “We’d raced them before and we were pretty confident, but it definitely wasn’t guaranteed.”
“I was pretty sure we’d go in the medley and 200 free relay,” said Edevold. “I was excited to be on the relays and help them out.”
“After winning True Team (in the 200 medley relay), I was pretty confident we’d do good in the medley,” said Lee. “I definitely thought that relay would go.”
“I thought we had a pretty good chance (in the 400 freestyle relay),” said Seifert. “Our main focus was to have safe starts, swim our hearts out and make sure we didn’t DQ.”
“I thought we’d definitely go in both (the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays),” said Schueller. “We had a lot of confidence that we’d go to state.”
In addition to advancing as relay members, Vrieze, Lauwagie and Seifert returned to state in different individual events while Lee qualified as an individual for the first time in two events.
Seifert, who competed at state in the 500 freestyle last season, gave the Panthers their first individual state berth with a runner-up finish in the 200 freestyle. Seifert finished third in the prelims with a 2:05.78 to trail Detroit Lakes’ Faith Hamm’s 2:01.92 and Schueller’s 2:03.64. Seifert entered the section meet as the No. 3 seed with a 2:08.39 while Schueller was the No. 2 seed at 2:07.36.
Seifert was able to move up in the finals with a 2:04.03 to trail Hamm’s 2:02.72 and top Schueller’s 2:04.61.
“Going back to state was a goal of mine. It’s something I wanted to happen,” said Seifert. “(After prelims) I wasn’t very confident. I didn’t think I had a chance. The finals were close. Avery and I were neck-and-neck. I didn’t believe it (taking second). It was crazy.”
Lee surprised herself by earning two individual trips to state.
Lee was the No. 5 seed in the 200 individual medley with a 2:31.53, but dropped that time to a 2:24.95 to finish second behind Fergus Falls’ Estee VerSteeg in the prelims. In the 100 breaststroke, Lee entered as the No. 4 seed with a 1:17.67, but excelled on the first day with a winning time of 1:13.76. Thief River Falls’ Maren Espe was second in 1:14.54.
Those efforts gave Lee plenty of confident entering the finals. Lee clocked a 2:23.52 to finish second in the 200 individual medley as VerSteeg took first in 2:23.18 and followed by winning the section title in the 100 breaststroke in 1:13.60 as Espe followed in 1:14.05.
“One of my goals was to go to state in an individual event. I thought I’d go in a relay, but I didn’t think my chances were that good in my individual events,” said Lee. “I dropped a lot of time in both. The breaststroke’s been my main event, so it’s pretty cool to go in that.”
Vrieze earned her third official state trip in an individual event by winning the 50 freestyle. Vrieze, who qualified for state in the 100 freestyle in 2019 and advanced in the 200 freestyle and 100 freestyle last season and would have qualified in the 500 freestyle if the 2020 state meet wouldn’t have been canceled because of COVID, entered the section meet as the No. 2 seed in the 50 freestyle with a 25.88. Vrieze advanced to the finals with a winning time of 25.62 as Perham/New York Mills’ Taylor Ziemke took second in 26.20. Ziemke entered as the No. 1 seed at 25.26.
The finals went just as well as Vrieze claimed the section title in 25.28 as Ziemke took second in 25.70.
“It was very important (to return to state). I would have been really sad if I wouldn’t have been able to experience state again,” said Vrieze. “I was pretty confident. I had to make sure I had a good race. I was happy with my time.”
After qualifying for state in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke last season, Lauwagie moved to the 100 butterfly for the section meet this season. That move paid off in another individual state trip.
Lauwagie was the No. 1 seed in that event with a 1:04.02 and advanced to the finals with a runner-up 1:05.27. Edevold took first in 1:04.81.
In the finals, Lauwagie dropped that time to a 1:03.09 to top Thief River Falls’ Kendal Rantanen’s 1:04.23 and Edevold’s 1:04.75.
“I was a little nervous (before prelims), but I was ready to go (in the finals),” said Lauwagie. “It was hard to see the 50 (freestyle) go, but I’m super excited (to go to state in the 100 butterfly).”
Schueller earned her first individual state berth by winning the 100 freestyle.
The Park Rapids eighth grader entered with plenty of confidence as the No. 2 seed with a 57.41. During the prelims, Schueller led the field in 55.86 as Fergus Falls’ Alexis Wellman was second in 57.55 and Ziemke, the No. 1 seed, finished third in 58.21.
In the finals, Schueller clocked a winning time of 56.85 to top Wellman’s 57.33 and Ziemke’s 57.81.
“I thought my chances were pretty high,” said Schueller. “I had the fastest time (after prelims), so I was pretty confident I’d go to state.”
Goals at state
All six swimmers have the same goal at state: qualify for the finals.
“I’m really happy to be going to state,” said Schueller. “I just want to do my best and keep my times the same. It’s going to be tough (to advance to the finals), but I want to help the seniors get their last hurrah.”
“I’m excited. I think we’re going to do a good job,” said Edevold. “We’re going to give it our all and hopefully drop our times compared to sections.”
“I’d like to drop more time, but my main goal is to have fun with my teammates one last time,” said Seifert. “It’s going to be tough, but I’m excited. It’s going to be a fun one.”
“I’m super excited,” said Lauwagie. “I want to qualify for the second day. I feel we can do it. We just have to not stress and have fun.”
“It was pretty important (to get back) after last year. It was one of my bigger goals,” said Lee. “We just need to worry about ourselves and do what we do. I want to drop more time and focus on having fun.”
“After last year, my goal was to swim the second day (at state) this season,” said Vrieze. “I’m hoping to make it to the second day in a relay or the 50. It’s been a long time since we’ve been to the finals and I want to prove ourselves this year. I’m going in with the mindset to swim fast and enjoy my last swimming meet.”