LADYSMITH - At the start of the season, the Lakeland Union High School girls' swim team had a goal of finishing within the top three teams in the Great Northern Conference at the end of the regular season.
In order to do that, the Thunderbirds needed to beat a team on Thursday evening that is consistently in that position, Ladysmith/Bruce/Flambeau.
Lakeland trailed Ladysmith throughout the entire meet and needed to earn a first and a third place finish in the final event of the meet - the 400-yard freestyle relay - in order to win.
It's an event that hasn't been a strong suit for the T-Birds this season, but the team of Mariah Angove, Holly Jaeger, Rose Main and Anntaya Corbesia won with a time of 3:58,78 and Amanda Kosmen, Megan Ross, Kennedy Richards and Georgia Garcia came in third, earning the win by a hair, 86-84.
"I have to give credit to the 400 free 'A' and 'B' relays," LUHS head coach Chris Garcia said. "The scores were close. We only won five events, but we took a lot of second, third, fourth, fifth places, so it was hard to keep track of the score. They announced the score at the break and they didn't do any more announcing of the score until right before the 400 free relay. I kind of thought I knew where we were. I told them, 'OK, we need to take first and third to win the meet' and they did exactly what they needed to do. They didn't give up, they stuck with it."
Once again, Lakeland was able to win a meet without winning the majority of the events. The Thunderbirds were able to rack up points by taking second and third place wins.
In the 200 individual medley, not only did Mariah Angove win the event, but Holly Jaeger took third place. In the 100 butterfly, Megan Ross won, but Nina Starynski placed third.
In the 100 freestyle, Corbesia and Angove were able to secure second and third place finishes, while Kennedy Richards and Georgia Garcia did the same thing in the 500 freestyle, while Main took fifth to grab a total of eight points in one race.
Perhaps the biggest event of the night was the 100 backstroke. Whitney Fuse won the race for the Tridents, but Ross, Garcia and Kelsee Blaska took second, third and fourth place to score a total of nine points.
"Some of the standouts weren't the first place winners," coach Garcia said. "Nina Starynski did 1:14.56 in the 100 fly and she started the year at like a 1:20. Kennedy Richards and Georgia Garcia dropped a bunch of time in the 500. Lexie Tiffany - in the breaststroke - had a great race. She came in second, but dropped more time."
Corbesia had a big race once again, earning three wins and a second place finish, while Angove did the same.
The freshman has been a big contributor this season, and she was able to win the 200 individual medley, along with being part of the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams.
In the 200 IM, Angove trailed the entire race before surging ahead in the waning moments to win by 0.55 seconds.
"She has a good work ethic, she's a sweet girl but she's going to do really well in the next four years," Garcia said.
The win marked the fourth in a row for Lakeland, with one more dual meet remaining on the conference schedule before the GNC Championships.
If the T-Birds beat Antigo, which is currently last in the GNC standings, they will secure third place in the conference heading into the GNC Championships, achieving a goal they had at the start of the season.
"The girls are really happy with that," Chris Garcia said. "They get a lot of the credit. They worked very hard, probably harder than they're used to. They're supportive of each other. When somebody is in the pool, everybody else is cheering. When somebody gets out of the pool, they are congratulating each other. They're all getting along really well."
Lakeland wraps up its GNC dual meet schedule on Thursday at home against Antigo.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.