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T-Birds swim their way to state

November 12, 2019 by Brett LaBore


For the first time since 2015, the Lakeland girls’ swim team will be sending a few swimmers to the state meet.

“Sectionals is always fun just because for a lot of girls it’s the season ending meet for them, so you want to go in with the best possible attitude and the more fun you have, the better you’re going to swim,” coach Chris Garcia said.

The 2019 WIAA Girls Division Two Sectional swim meet was held at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School on Saturday afternoon. As a team, the Thunderbirds finished sixth with 194 points. Rhinelander won with a team score of 264 points.

The Thunderbirds qualified four girls to the state meet this week. Rylee Ahlborn, Mariah Angove, Brie Wescott and Naomi Hamerla will represent Lakeland, having qualified as one of the 12 fastest times across all four of Saturday’s D2 sectionals.

The first to qualify came in the 50-yard freestyle from Ahlborn. She finished fifth, swimming a time of 25.28, beating her seed time of 25.52 and achieving a lifetime best.

Ahlborn also qualified in the 100-yard freestyle. She swam a time of 54.51, finishing fifth once again. She beat her lifetime best time by 1.2 seconds.

“Very proud. Those are two really tough races,” Garcia said. “It’s really anybodies race once you get to state. She earned it.”

One week ago, the Thunderbirds set a school and conference record, finishing first in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:40.71. 

This time, the team of Wescott, Hamerla, Angove and Ahlborn finished second and just missed out on breaking the record again, swimming to a time of 1:40.72. Rice Lake edged them with a time of 1:40.24 for the automatic bid to state.

“Again we told them not to really worry about place because we knew everybody was going to go faster,” Garcia said. “Focus on getting a great time to ensure a spot at state and they did that.”

In the 100-yard breaststroke, Angove finished second with a time of 1:10.65, qualifying for state. She beat her seed time by .02 seconds.

“I can count on Mariah no matter what to give it 110% when she gets in the pool,” Garcia said. “She is a great racer, she knows where her competitors are and she does her best to keep up, touch them out at the end and never gives up in the races. I’m really happy for her.” 

The Thunderbirds ended the meet with a bang. The final event came in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Last week, the team of Wescott, Hamerla, Angove and Ahlborn just missed the school record. Not this time.

They finished second with a school record time of 3:41.54, besting their previous time by over five seconds. The school record had been there since 2015. Wausau East squeaked out the victory by 0.18 seconds.

“That was probably one of the most exciting 400 free relays we’ve had in a long time,” Garcia said. “Brie started really great, Naomi is always strong, Mariah, you could just tell when she dove in she was determined to make up some of that space in-between and Rylee’s performance was unbelievable. If we had one more yard in the pool she would have caught that girl. (Rylee) swam a split of 53.20.”

In addition to the state qualifiers, there were many great performances from non-state qualifiers. 

Megan Ross finished in the top 10 in the 100-yard backstroke, swimming a time of 1:04.23 and finishing ninth. She swam a lifetime best and was two seconds away from the school record.

“She has done that since she’s been little,” Garcia said. “She’s come up with some absolutely out-of-this-world kind of swims and she pulled it out in the 100 back.”

Ross also had a lifetime best swim of 59.56 in the 100-yard freestyle. 

Hamerla finished in the top 10 in both the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly. She swam a time of 2:06.41 in the freestyle and 1:02.28 in the butterfly.

Carly Main swam a lifetime best in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 1:06.08.

In the 500-yard freestyle, several swimmers had lifetime bests. Nina Starynski swam a time of 6:02.50, almost six seconds faster than her seed time. Hanna Wegner-Clements swam a time of 6:49.84 as well.

Cameryn Teichmiller had a lifetime best in the 100-yard breaststroke, swimming a time of 1:22.31.

Another lifetime best came from Morgan Nowak in the 100-yard backstroke. She swam a time of 1:14.33.

This shows that the Thunderbirds brought their best at the end of the season, something that coach Garcia liked to see.

“(Whether it was) half a second or a second, that’s where we want to be at the end of the season is with your lifetime bests,” Garcia said. 

The state meet will be held Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16 at the UW-Natatorium on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The meet starts at 2:30 p.m.

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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