Lacrosse Margitan takes a big breath in the 100-yard breaststroke Friday, Nov. 1 at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Aquatics Center. Photo by Brett LaBore/Lakeland Times.
Lacrosse Margitan takes a big breath in the 100-yard breaststroke Friday, Nov. 1 at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Aquatics Center. Photo by Brett LaBore/Lakeland Times.
Coming off an exciting GNC meet Saturday, the Lakeland girls’ swim team looks to carry that momentum into their next challenge.

The Thunderbirds travel to Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School for the sectional meet. They will look to try and advance a few swimmers to the state meet.

“[We’re] very excited,” explained coach Chris Garcia. “Everybody is looking forward to having even some faster swims for Saturday and again just really hoping to get some people to state.”

Here’s how it works — if a swimmer wins their race, they have the automatic bid to go to state. After that, the next 12 fastest times across all four of Saturday’s D2 sectionals statewide will make their way to Madison next Friday.

One relay to keep an eye on is the 200-yard freestyle — in which the Thunderbirds broke for a school and conference record last Friday at the GNC meet. Brie Wescott, Naomi Hamerla, Mariah Angove and Rylee Ahlborn swam the relay for a time of 1:40.71.

The Thunderbirds own the top time in the sectional — and third-fastest in the state — in that event, with Merrill right behind them with a time of 1:41.33. Lakeland will look to continue that success at the sectional meet.

“I think it helped getting the 200 free record,” Garcia said. “[It] kind of takes that pressure off of them, gives them a little more confidence heading into the sectional meet. Now their goal is for state which they have an outstanding shot at getting at, but they’re going to have to put their best effort in because everybody’s going to get faster.”

Hamerla will look to try to go to state in a couple of individual events. She swam a time of 2:06.45 in the 200-yard freestyle. Her biggest competition will come from Ellery Ottem from River Falls and Evelyn Blennert from Merrill.

Her other big swim comes in the 100 butterfly, swimming a time of 1:02.15 at the GNC meet. Her time ranks fourth coming into the swim, with Rhinelander’s Malia Francis the favorite. 

“For butterfly its just how quick can you get off the walls, what’s your underwater dolphin look like and how strong can you finish the race,” Garcia said.

Ahlborn will look to swim fast in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle. In the 50, she swam a winning time of 25.52 at the GNC meet. There are plenty of fast swimmers, with Faith Forsberg from Rice Lake leading the way with a time of 25.26.

“The 50 free almost requires you to have a perfect race to win it or be in the top 12 times,” Garcia said. “The start, the turn, where you breathe is important.”

In the 100, Ahlborn swam a time of 55.75 at the GNC meet. Ottem and Tomahawk’s Kylee Theiler are the top competitors. 

Angove swam the 100-yard breaststroke to a winning time of 1:10.67 at the GNC meet. She’ll look to bring that time to the sectional meet. There is only one girl with a better time coming into the meet. Merrill’s Amber Winter has a time of 1:10.61, making for what could be a very close race.

Like Ahlborn, Angove will give her shot at the 100-yard freestyle, where Angove swam a time of 55.63.

In the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Thunderbirds were a second off of their school record with a time of 3:46.93. Wescott, Hamerla, Angove and Ahlborn will look to finally break that record Saturday.

“I think Brie didn’t feel like she had her best race,” Garcia said. “I think she can go a little bit faster. Naomi can go a little bit quicker and if Mariah and Rylee can hold their times we can be good to go.”

Look out for Wescott in the 50-yard freestyle. Her time of 25.84 puts her as the seventh best time heading into the meet. 

The competition will be fierce as everyone will bring their best to this sectional meet.

“River Falls has a really fast freshman sprinter, Merrill has got some good people in the 500, they also have a really strong 200 free relay,” Garcia said. “Rice Lake has some great 50 sprinters. And Medford’s going to be tough, they always do well at their sectional meets.”

The Thunderbirds participate in sectionals Saturday, November 9 at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. The meet starts at 1 p.m.

Brett LaBore may be reached at brett@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.