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GIRLS SWIMMING AND DIVING: Warriors' coach will be colorful at state

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Dan Anderson might have the sharpest manicure of any male who will coach in this week’s Class 2A state meet.

The Brainerd Warriors head coach had his fingernails painted red by members of his 200 medley relay team. The relay made a friendly wager with Anderson. If they qualified for state, they asked if they could paint his fingernails.

It was a bet Anderson was happy to lose.

The medley relay of freshman Hannah McKeag, junior Erica Rehnblom and eighth-graders Sydney Erickson and Lauren Forsythe earned the right to give their coach a manicure when they qualified for state by time standard in the Section 8-2A meet Nov. 10 at Elk River. The relay went 1:52.38 in the finals to squeeze under the state standard of 1:52.45.

The medley relay is seeded 25th out of 27 teams at state.

“Four teams from our section qualified by time standard (for state) in the 200 medley relay,” Anderson said, “and there would have been five but Maple Grove (was disqualified). That tells you something when five teams from one section make it. Every team in the section loaded up in the medley relay and put their best kids in there. To make the top 16 will be a tall order in that event.

“What made (the Warriors’) accomplishment even better is we didn’t settle on those four girls until late in the season. The best they had done before that was the conference meet when they went maybe a 1:59. At the conference meet, we put the screws to them and said they had to beat Willmar and Fergus Falls to get all-conference, and they did. 1:58.0. We were thrilled with that, but we knew they could go 1:54.”

The relay went 1:52.96 in the section prelims, then lowered their time in the finals by 58/100ths.

“That’s just an incredible time for that group,” Anderson said. “I’m not disparaging them at all, but they so overachieved. To go that fast is pretty amazing.

“To place at state, they will probably have to go 1:51. When I told them that, they just shrugged their shoulders and said ‘OK.’ We’ll see what they can do.”

Although previous state meet experience doesn’t guarantee anything, Brainerd’s Fallon Ryan and Beth Etterman may have an edge when they return for their second state meet.

Etterman, a junior, finished 13th in last year’s 2A state diving meet. Ryan, a sophomore, placed 18th in the 500 free and 20th in the 200 free a year ago.

Divers are not seeded so Etterman enters the 32-diver field with as good of a shot as anyone. She was in fourth place entering the final day of the Section 8-2A meet and moved up two spots in the finals.

After five dives, the state field will be cut to 20 competitors. After eight dives, the field is trimmed to 16 divers. The finalists have three more dives to increase their score.

“Some divers front load their list to do their better dives early,” Anderson said. “Some don’t have great dives left in their final three, but the good divers do.

“Beth was sitting fourth (in the section), but had three huge dives left with tons of difficulty points built in. She was in a good position the whole way. It wasn’t that she was fretting — I don’t think. She just stepped up and stuck her last three dives. Even though she was sitting fourth, she was fine. We were not worried at all.”

Ryan is seeded 23rd in both of her events.

In the 200, her seed time is 1:57.22 in a field of 26 swimmers.

“Fallon just swam a good race (in the section finals),” Anderson said. “She got out front. It was pretty obvious early on no one was going to catch her.

“I think she’s got more in her. If someone’s swimming next to her, I think she can get in the 1:56 range. It’s going to take high 1:55s or low 1:56s to make the top 16. I remember when that time used to win it.”

Her seed time in the 500 is 5:18.18 in another event that features 26 swimmers.

“She was keeping her competition behind her,” Anderson said of Ryan’s section final. “She was keeping an eye on them, but not overusing her legs. She did just enough to win. I believe she’s got 4-5 more seconds in her. That could get her to the second day.

“In the back of Fallon’s mind, I think she knew she could win the (section) 500, and she won it, but I think she was thinking about that last relay. Mentally, I think that’s where she put her energy.”

Ryan anchors the 400 free relay, which is seeded 20th at 3:42.66 among 22 teams. Relay mates are freshman Alyssa Williams, sophomore Reilly Peterson and McKeag.

“That’s been our best relay all year,” Anderson said. “Every time we had to have a win to close out a meet, they did it — at the Park Rapids Invite, the Melrose meet. They’re just solid.

“They were behind the 8-ball (in the section finals). We knew from what everyone else had that every one of them had to step it up, and they did a great job, and they broke the school record.”

McKeag is seeded 30th out of 36 swimmers in the 100 backstroke at 59.89. She has already broken the school record three times — once as an eighth-grader, twice in last week’s section meet.

MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at