Girls Swimming and Diving: Warriors’ roster full and talented
The Brained Warriors open their season at Bemidji Tuesday, Aug. 30.
BRAINERD — It’s been a long time since Brainerd Warriors swimming and diving coach Dan Anderson could say he’s got 15 returning seniors and 29 total returning letterwinners on his roster.
While the experience is nice, he’s also got talent and a brand new pool to showcase what he believes will be a strong contender for the Central Lakes Conference and Section 8-2A.
“It’s a veteran crew and you can’t always say that, but we have a lot of seniors and juniors,” Anderson said. “Even our young kids are experienced. It’s been really nice. At practice, they know what they’re supposed to do. These are the types of years where it’s easier on a coach. There isn’t as much teaching this year and they’re a hard-working, disciplined group. It’s been a pleasure so far.”
To say Brainerd’s diving rotation is stacked would be an understatement. Seniors Izzy Olson and Brenna Deason return from last year’s state meet. And while their state finish wasn’t what either wanted, they’ll be regarded as two of the top divers in the section. Throw in senior Megan Wirtz, who advanced to state in gymnastics last winter, senior Evie Helsene who was the No. 3 diver last year and Ella Dirks, one of Brainerd’s top high jumpers during the track and field season, and Brainerd’s divers will score points this year.
“We’re absolutely loaded,” Anderson said. “We have six seniors over there and they're all good. Mary (Streiff) does such a great job over there. I’ve already seen it in practice. I keep looking over there and expecting to see the divers to be done, but they just keep going. They’ve got a lot of hours in over there.
“You’ve got the two that have state meet experience and then Evie Helsene was a section finalist and Megan Wirtz was ninth. Then you throw in Ella Dircks who is a very good diver as is Malina Schiller. It’s a good group and they really push each other.”
Helsene was seventh in the section meet behind Olson who won the section title and Deason who placed fourth. Wirth finished ninth.
Olson also won the CLC title with Deason fourth, Helsene eighth and Witz 13th.
We’re very good. The problem is, a lot of our competition is, too.
Sophomore Mya Tautges was an all-conference 100-yard freestyler and was an honorable mention swimmer in the 50 free. She finished fourth in the 50 at the section 8-2A meet with a time of 25.0. Isabelle Ploof was sixth at sections and Alexis Lugo placed 11th.
In the 100 free, Tautges placed fifth, Ploof 11th and Gabby Chalupsky was 12th.
“Mya is just a really good athlete,” Anderson said. “You point something out to her and she can do it. She can change what she’s doing in a split second. She’s just a very good athlete. She’ll be in the sprint freestyles, which will probably be our strength because then we have Isabelle Ploof in the 50 and 100. We also might slide Scarlett Anderson into the 50 and 100 this year. She’s really solid there. Then in the 100, we have Gabby. We’re four deep in the 100 and throw in Lexis in the 50 and maybe Avery Duerr so we’re deep there too.”
Chalupsky was 11th in the conference for the 200 free ahead of Ella Ostrowski in 13th and Sophie Mattson in 15th. Chalupsky was 15th and Mattson 16th in the section meet.
For the 500 free, Mattson placed 10th in the conference. Autumn Larson 13th and Ostrowski 15th. For the section meet, Larson was the top Warrior with a 13th-place finish and Mattson was 15th.
“In the 500, Autumn Larson is our top coming back, but Sophie is right there,” Anderson said. “Sophie battled injuries last year and then we have Ella Ostrowski so we have three solid 500 girls. In the 200, which is kind of between a sprint and a distance, Sophie is in there and Ella is in there and Gabby moves up to that event so we’re three deep there.”
Mariah Alderson placed fifth in the conference and ninth in the section in the 100 butterfly. Kaia Iske was eighth in the conference and 13th in the section while Autumn Larson placed 13th in the conference and 16th in the section.
“We’re pretty strong in the butterfly,” Anderson said. “We have Mariah Alderson back. She’s the second fastest butteflyer in school history. She’s had a good summer and she looks good. In that event, we also have Kaia Iske. This is her second year on the varsity and she looks so much stronger than last year. Then we have Autumn Larson and those three are three of the best in the conference.”
The Warriors return freshman Avery Duerr and sophomore Brynn Haapajoki for the breaststroke. Duerr placed sixth in the conference and fourth in the section. Haapajoki collected a 10th in the conference and an eighth in the section.
“The two we have are really solid,” Anderson said. “Avery was a section finalist last year and then we have Brynn and those two are very good. We need to find some more depth behind them, but I think we will.”
That’s not the case in the backstroke as Brainerd returns Vanessa Anderson who was 14th in the conference and 16th in the section. Sophomore Greta Geary also returns. She placed 19th in the conference.
“We might see more of Kaia Iske in that race this year,” Anderson said. “Greta looks really strong and then we have a couple of younger girls that will also compete. I think we’ll be pretty solid there. Mariah is also our best (individual medley). She was seven in the conference and 10th in the section. Greta Geary is also one of our IMers and so is Brynn. Iske can be in that, too.”
As for the relays, Anderson said he can see a few of them in his mind, but said no spot is guaranteed.
“We’re very good,” Anderson said. “The problem is, a lot of our competition is, too.”
Brainerd fans will get to see a lot of that top competition as the Warriors will host the Section True Team meet and the Section 8-2A Championship courtesy of Brainerd High School’s brand-new pool facility.
“It’s huge,” Anderson said. “It’s so much bigger. Each lane is bigger and then you add two lanes to it and we’re just getting so much more accomplished. We’re actually getting through practice quicker than we used to in the past.
“That and the fact that our divers can practice at the same time as the swimmers are so we can have team meetings together. We’re all in the weight room together. It’s really helped that way and we seem to be much more of a team.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.