The Lakeland girls’ swim team traveled to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the big Great Northern Conference meet Friday, Nov. 1.
“It was a lot of fun,” coach Chris Garcia said. “We try and make it as fun as possible because the more fun you’re having the better you’re going to swim.”
The Thunderbirds performed at a high level, taking second place with 288 points as a team, recording a number of wins in a couple of events. Rhinelander won with 309 points.
“We swam some amazing races,” Garcia said. “(We) placed higher than (we) were seeded, which really helped us with the points. Everybody on the team scored points for us.”
One of the Thunderbirds’ big wins of the night came in historic fashion.
The Thunderbirds took first place in the 200-yard freestyle relay, setting a new conference and school record. The team of Brie Wescott, Naomi Hamerla, Mariah Angove and Rylee Ahlborn swam a time of 1:40.71. The previous record had been set in 2003.
“That’s been the goal of theirs from the beginning of the season and Robert (coach Robert Garcia) and I were really, really proud of them,” Garcia said. “Robert kind of told them what they wanted to swim and they all went in doing exactly what he had said, so that was kind of fun.”
The first win of the night came from Ahlborn in the 50-yard freestyle. She won with a time of 25.52, the only swimmer under 26 seconds.
“(Rylee) has phenomenal underwater work,” Garcia said. “She gains speed going from underwater to (her) turn. She came out from her underwater work and had already pulled away.”
Another win came from Mariah Angove. She won the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:10.67, dropping four seconds off her lifetime best. Her initial split of 32.83 set the tone for the rest of her swim, the fastest split of any swimmer.
“(Mariah’s) just been really solid all week in practice. She’s been hitting some great times on her intervals,” Garcia said. “She was up from setting the record in the 200 free, so her spirits were high. She was just really excited.”
The Thunderbirds finished the night off with a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The team of Wescott, Hamerla, Angove and Ahlborn finished first with a time of 3:46.93.
“That’s another relay that those girls have really been working on,” Garcia said. “We were only a second off our school record.”
Midway through the meet, Lakeland and Ladysmith were dueling for second place as Rhinelander showed their strength, but the Thunderbirds used a big second half to pull away from Ladysmith and almost catch up to Rhinelander.
One of those events came from Hamerla in the 100-yard butterfly. She swam a time of 1:02.15, just .09 off the school record that’s been in place since 2002. The time gave her second place in the event. Her initial split of 28.90 was the fastest of the event.
“(Naomi’s) one of our hard working girls and deserves a lot of credit,” Garcia said. “She’s come a long way from the beginning of the season.”
In the 100-yard freestyle, Angove finished second with a time of 55.63. Her 26.61 split was the second fastest in the event.
Hamerla placed third in the 200-yard freestyle, swimming a time of 2:06.45.
Ahlborn placed third in the 100-yard freestyle, swimming a time of 55.75.
Wescott placed third in the 500-yard freestyle, swimming a time of 6:00.10.
In the 500-yard freestyle, Nina Starynski placed fourth with a time of 6:08.19.
In the 100-yard butterfly, Megan Ross placed fifth with a time of 1:08.37.
In the 100-yard backstroke, Amanda Kosmen placed fifth with a time of 1:06.97.
Not only did the Thunderbirds place first in the 400-yard freestyle relay, but the “B” team finished fourth as well. The team of Starynski, Cameryn Teichmiller, Ross and Kosmen finished with a time of 4:07.05.
“I can’t say enough about everybody on the team,” Garcia said. “They really stepped up.”
Up next, the Thunderbirds participate in sectionals Saturday, Nov. 9 at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. The meet starts at 1 p.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]