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Swimmers look to build from last year's success

Todd Fritze is counting on the Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team to build on last year's success. A year ago, the Panthers went 6-2 in dual meets, finished second at the Mid-State Conference meet, placed fourth at the Section 8A meet and...

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Looking to cap off their senior seasons by helping the Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team produce another successful season are Katie Eischens (left) and Olivia Ulvin. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Todd Fritze is counting on the Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team to build on last year's success.

A year ago, the Panthers went 6-2 in dual meets, finished second at the Mid-State Conference meet, placed fourth at the Section 8A meet and qualified an individual for the state Class A meet for the 24th year in a row.

"I think we surprised a lot of people last year. We're going to be more seasoned this year. We're still young, but the girls have a lot of experience and are starting to understand how we do things the right way," said Fritze, who will be assisted by Megan Helms and Sarah Peper. "The girls are working hard. Our focus is to get better every day. We want to be swimming fast in November."

The Panthers have two key swimmers to replace with the graduation of Maija Hovelsrud and Jordan Klemmer. Hovelsrud provided the main highlight to the season by qualifying for state in the 100-yard breaststroke for the second year in a row. Hovelsrud was the section runner-up in that event and capped off her high school career by placing 18th in her second and final state appearance. Hovelsrud compiled 312.75 points while also competing in the 200 medley relay and 100 butterfly at the section meet. Klemmer finished with 231.50 points while competing at the section meet in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay, 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle. Both were also all-conference honorable mention swimmers.

Being counted to lead the Panthers this season are the eight swimmers who competed at last year's section meet. Senior Olivia Ulvin; juniors Jess Kaseman, Mary Rose Nichols and Chloe Voigt; and sophomores Savana Damar, Liesel Smee, Ellie Ulvin and Aleah Voigt return after helping Park Rapids compile 223 points at the section meet to trail Bemidji (431), Detroit Lakes (422) and Grand Rapids (283).

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Ellie Ulvin was named the Panthers' MVP after leading the team with 382 points. Ulvin was the Mid-State champion in the 100 butterfly while placing third in the 50 freestyle and just missed qualifying for state by placing third in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 butterfly at the section meet. Ulvin ranks No. 3 in the 50 freestyle and No. 5 in the 100 butterfly in school history.

Olivia Ulvin was third in points with 307 and moved up to the No. 7 spot in the 500 freestyle and the No. 10 spot in the 200 freestyle on the school's all-time list. Ulvin placed third in the 200 freestyle at the conference meet and sixth in both the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle at the section meet.

Smee compiled 242 points last season, highlighted by placing third in the 200 individual medley at the conference meet and 12th in the 100 backstroke at the section meet. Smee also placed 14th in the 200 individual medley at the section meet.

Aleah Voigt was the conference runner-up in the 200 individual medley, placed third in the 500 freestyle at the Mid-State meet and placed eighth in the 500 freestyle at the section meet. Voigt also placed 11th in the 200 individual medley at the section meet while compiling 241.75 points.

Chloe Voigt finished the season with 177.50 points, including placing 10th in the 500 freestyle and 12th in the 200 freestyle at the section meet.

Damar scored 132.25 points last season while placing 28th in both the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle at the section meet.

Kaseman scored 116 points last season and was a section competitor in the 100 backstroke (placing 22nd) and 200 individual medley (placing 24th).

Nichols finished 11th with 108 points, capping off the season by placing 17th in the 100 breaststroke and 20th in the 100 butterfly at the section meet.

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Also helping the Panthers compile 325.50 points at the Mid-State meet with runner-up honors were Smee and Ellie Ulvin in the 200 medley relay and Ellie Ulvin, Olivia Ulvin and Aleah Voigt in the 200 freestyle relay. Detroit Lakes won the conference title for the fourth year in a row with 500.50 points.

At the section meet, Smee and Ellie Ulvin swam on the third-place 200 medley relay team while Ellie Ulvin, Olivia Ulvin and Aleah Voigt swam on the fourth-place 200 freestyle relay team.

Also scoring points for the Panthers last season were senior Katie Eischens (12); freshman Allie Offerdahl (5); and eighth graders Massie Lee (55), Emma Vrieze (15) and Maria Wagner (62.50).

Looking to contribute on varsity and provide depth this fall are sophomores Amber Berndt and Grace Stinar; freshman Grace Litzau; eighth grader Josie Skoblick; and seventh graders Maya Deshayes, Lizzie Seifert, Gabi Shepersky and Claire Voigt.

"We have talent coming back, but we still have a lot of work to do," said Fritze. "We always have high expectations. We're hoping to build on what we did last year."

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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