The Lakeland Union High School girls’ swim team showcased both its speed and depth last Thursday night in the Great Northern Conference opener. 
The T-Birds scored nine victories and a host of other top-three finishes as they defeated Antigo 108-56 at the McKenna Aquatic Center in Antigo. 
Freshman Rylee Ahlborn and sophomore Mariah Angove were both four-event winners for Lakeland, which led the dual meet from the onset and never looked back. 
“I just tell everyone to focus on the race, the small parts, the turns and things like that — which I think we did much better on our turns and our starts this week than we did last week,” Lakeland coach Chris Garcia said.
Lakeland swept the top two spots in five events on the evening, including a 1-2-3 sweep by Amanda Kosmen (1 minute, 19.58 seconds), Naomi Hamerla and Megan Nowak in the 100-meter backstroke. 
Angove (30.07) and Megan Ross spearheaded a 1-2 finish for Lakeland in the 50 freestyle; Hamerla (1:07.64) and Nowak went 1-2 in the 100 freestyle; Ahlborn (2:27.73) and Kosmen went 1-2 in the 200 freestyle and Lakeland claimed the top two spots in the 200 freestyle relay. 
“Morgan Nowak in the 100 free, she took second, but her finish was really amazing,” Garcia noted. “She was neck-and-neck with an Antigo girl right next to her and she really put it down and touched her out at the end.”
Ahlborn made it a sweep of the distance freestyle races with a win in the 400 (5:19.17). Angove added a win in the 100 breaststroke (1:29.32) to go along with her victory in the 50 free.
Lakeland claimed first in all three relay races on the night. The quartet of Kosmen, Tatum Morris, Celeste Teichmiller and Angove won the 200 medley relay (2:24.68); Kosmen, Hamerla, Angove and Ahlborn won the 200 freestyle relay (2:03.21); and Teichmiller, Nina Starynski, Hamerla and Ahlborn won the 400 freestyle relay (4:44.80).
The team of Nowak, Starynski, Morris and Ross completed the 1-2 sweep for Lakeland in the 200 freestyle relay.
Heather Arlen, last year’s Great Northern Conference 100-yard butterfly champion, scored Antigo’s two wins on the night. She won the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly. Ross finished second to Arlen in the butterfly.
“I thought Megan Ross on her 100 fly did really well,” Garcia noted. “Heather Arlen is really an excellent butterflier and Megan really kept up with her. She’s had some knee issues, but she did a great job of keeping up with her for at least the first 75 (meters).”
Thursday’s meet posed a unique challenge as the pool at the McKenna Aquatic Center is the only short-course meter pool in the GNC. Garcia said her team handled the challenge of a few extra feet per length well. 
“You’re talking about a little over four extra feet on a length, but it matters,” she said. “It really matters. Keeping your head down, not breathing on the finish, reaching is all really key. On a bunch of the races that we had, we were within a second or a few tenths of each other, touching people out. It made a big difference.”
Starynski added third-place finish for Lakeland in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly, Nowak was third in the 100 breaststroke. 
The meet concluded a busy opening month of the season for Lakeland. Garcia said the team was happy to hit the Labor Day break, especially after a stretch of four meets in nine days.
“Everybody’s pretty tired,” she said. “That first month is rough. Most of the swimmers had not swam at all during the offseason, so much of it was getting back in shape, getting back in the swing of things. They’re pretty beat. It will be a couple days off and then I think we’re just going to improve and getting better all season.”
The T-Birds (1-0 Great Northern) are back in the pool today as they host Rhinelander in a GNC dual at the LUHS pool. Lakeland finished second to the Hodags in a non-conference triangular last Tuesday in Rhinelander. Today’s meet gets underway at 5:30 p.m.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.