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WARRIORS ATHLETE OF WEEK: Ryan just keeps getting better

When Fallon Ryan broke a school record as an eighth-grader it gave Brainerd Warriors swimming and diving coach Dan Anderson an inkling that she could be someone special.

“We knew she had talent but we didn’t expect her to do what she did last year by any means,” Anderson said.

“We think hard about bringing up eighth-graders,” he added. “Our training is so hard. They have to be ready. I thought about it long and hard, and brought her up. It turned out to be a no-brainer.

“As the year went on she just kept getting better and better. She had a huge breakout meet at the section, she just went nuts. She dropped about 15 seconds to break the school record (in the 500 freestyle). Nobody expected that. We didn’t expect that. We had to tell her she broke the school record.”

Ryan swam 5:27.06 in last year’s section finals to break Laura Goll’s record of 5:28.38 set in 2009. Goll broke the record set in 2001 by Erica Campbell.

This fall Ryan has developed into one of the team’s top performers, winning six of eight individual races and anchoring five first-place relays in eight meets. She was named the Central Lakes Conference performer of the week ending Sept. 17.

“This year we expected her to be competitive,” Anderson said. “She’s been way more than competitive. She has the ability in meets to go faster. She’s up against really some good swimmers that are older and more experienced than her. She just races them and beats them.”

In two meets last week Ryan won four individual events and was on two winning relays. Is she surprised to be doing so well as a freshman?

“I think I just know more what to expect and how to swim the races,” Ryan said.

In a dual meet against Rocori, she won the 50 and 100 freestyles. Her time in the 100 was one of the top 20 efforts in program history.

“Those two were ones (Anderson) put me in that I don’t usually swim so I swam them for fun just to see what I could get,” Ryan said.

At the Park Rapids Invite last weekend she won the 200 and 500 and anchored the 200 and 400 free relays to firsts.

“I hadn’t swam those (200 and 500) in a while so it felt good to swim my events again,” said Ryan, who prefers distance to sprints.

“Distance seems to come easier to me,” she said. “I think I’m pretty good at both (the 200 and 500) if I put my mind to it. Sprints are so short. I think I have more endurance than sprints.”

Anchoring relays can mean the pressure’s on the last swimmer. An anchor either has to maintain the lead or catch and pass those in front of her.

“I never dreamed of putting her in the anchor position,” Anderson said. “It’s interesting because our seniors have said Fallon needs to be there.

“She’s such a competitor. If she’s behind, if anybody can catch the girl in front of her it will be Fallon. She just races.”

Distance may be where Ryan excels but she can produce wins virtually wherever Anderson inserts her in the lineup.

“We have two good 500 freestylers with Fallon and Steph Hansen,” he said. “Those two go out and race each other every day, so I try to split them up once in a while to give them a break.”

Other notable efforts:

• Nick Welch, football, rushed for 113 yards against Sartell.

• Mikinzee Salo, tennis, is 16-3 in singles. Kayla Kraemer is 15-4 and Sara Wennerstrand 17-2 in singles and doubles. Nichole Gervenak/Megan Hintz are 18-1 and Morgan Steffen/Caitlin Steffen are 16-3 in doubles.

• Emily Beltran, girls soccer, had three goals and an assist against Fergus Falls.

• Hannah Lundstrom, girls soccer, had two goals and two assists against Fergus Falls.

• Sydnie Mauch, volleyball, had 19 kills and eight blocks against Alexandria.