RHINELANDER — The Lakeland Union High School girls’ swim team might not be in peak form just yet, but coach Chris Garcia likes where her team sits a handful of weeks into the season.
The T-Birds turned in a solid performance Tuesday, winning two events and placing second in seven others, as they finished second in a triangular meet at the Heck Family Community Pool in Rhinelander. 
“I was happy that this was a tri(angular) meet,” Garcia said. “Again it wasn’t a conference meet yet. It gave me a chance, again, to look at what we need to work on. We were short about six girls today, which is fine. We swam some swims good, some swims not so good, but that’s all right.”
Lakeland hung with hosting Rhinelander early, trailing the Hodags by only four points at intermission, but Rhinelander won nine events on the day and pulled away to a 104-76 win over the T-Birds. Wausau West was a distant third with 44 points. 
Freshman Rylee Ahlborn had a hand in both of Lakeland’s victories Tuesday. She won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2 minutes, 39.84 seconds and was part of the Lakeland quartet that won the 400 freestyle relay along with sophomore Mariah Angove, sophomore Nina Starynski and junior Amanda Kosmen (4:11.95).
“Rylee came through again on the 200 IM,” Garcia said. “She’s a really strong swimmer. She’s one of our freshmen. It was nice to see that. The 400 free relay, I thought we would do OK. Nina Starynski had a really great, personal-best time in that relay. It looked like Rhinelander has stacked their 200 free relay, so I knew we were probably a little safer in the 400, but it’s always nice to end with a win.”
Lakeland also picked up a number of points in the sprint freestyle races. Hamerla, Kosmen and sophomore Megan Ross finished second, third and fourth in the 50 freestyle. Hamerla broke 28 seconds in the event (27.84) and finished 0.41 seconds behind winner Grace Heck of Rhinelander. Angove and Ahlborn finished second in third in the 100 freestyle, losing a close race to the wall against Rhinelander’s Noelle St. Pierre. The top three in that event were separated by only 0.71 seconds.
The T-Birds also went second and third in the 100 backstroke with Angove and Ross.
Hamerla added a runner-up finish for Lakeland in the 100 butterfly and Kosmen finished second in the 500 freestyle. The T-Birds also finished second in a pair of relays — Ross, Angove, Hamerla and Ahlborn were second in the 200 medley relay while Celeste Teichmiller, Ross, Hamerla and Kosmen took second in the 200 freestyle relay.
Teichmiller added a fourth-place finish in the 100 butterfly.
Garcia said she saw both positives and areas that need improvement, both of which can be expected during an early-season meet.
“There were some technical problems. There were two DQs, which was a little bit of a bummer, but they’re simple mistakes to correct,” she said. “It was a really fun meet. That’s what we want, for the girls to start out by relaxing, enjoying swimming, and then the times will come.”
The T-Birds began the Great Northern Conference dual meet portion of their schedule last night at Antigo in a competition that concluded after deadline. 
It won’t take long for Lakeland to see Rhinelander — the team that edged the T-Birds for second in the GNC last season — again. The Hodags come to Lakeland for a GNC dual this coming Tuesday and the T-Birds return to Rhinelander the following Saturday for the Hodag Relays. Garcia said Tuesday’s triangular gave her an opportunity to size up the Hodags and some ideas as to how to set up the lineup for next week’s dual meet. 
“Rhinelander is always a tough team. I respect their coaches a lot, but we’ll hopefully be a little more ready next week,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll have a few more of my swimmers back on board. We’ll have some work to do in a week’s time.” 
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.