Girls Swimming and Diving: Warriors win section title and send 9 to state

The Brainerd Warriors hosted the Section 8-2A swimming and diving finals.

Relay swimmers embrace each other in a small group as they react happily to winning.
Brainerd's Avery Duerr, left, Mariah Alderson, Isabelle Ploof and Mya Tautges react after finishing second in the 200-yard medley relay during the Section 8-2A Girls Swimming and Diving finals Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — By the time this story hits the internet, Brainerd Warriors head coach Dan Anderson still won’t believe his team won the Section 8-2A team title Saturday, Nov. 12, at Brainerd High School.

Someone needs to pinch him because his Warriors did thanks to a huge showing in diving and a surprise 200-yard freestyle victory that hasn’t happened in a long time.

The Warriors topped Sartell, coached by former Brainerd Warrior Hannah McKeag, 373 to 350 to collect their first team section title in 22 years.

Following the meet, Anderson said he never thought he would win another team title.

“Nope,” Anderson said. “I thought we could be third. Moorhead and Sartell I thought going in were the favorites. After last night (prelims) I thought we had a shot for second. Then things started falling our way. We were getting faster and other teams were going backward. It just snowballed.”


Brainerd was in third after the 50 freestyle and then came diving.

Izzy Olson captured her third section title with 437.8 points, which was 17 better than second-place Hailey Westrup of Sartell. Westrup is the only person to have beaten Olson this season.

“I've never been that nervous, I can say that,” Olson said. “I get a little nervous, but not that much. Going into finals, I know the atmosphere is more intense. It’s more loud because the swimmers are all there. You can really feel it within you and the nerves start adding up, but I just had a feeling with Hailey going in front of me that my technique and height stand out more.

“My last dive I wasn’t happy with, but I knew I just needed to put it in for, I guess, par. My back dive and by back 1 ½ I was just so happy with it. Those two just gave me a big jump up there and I knew that was it.”

Olson entered the three-dive finals with a one-point lead over Westrup, but posted a 37.6 on her first dive followed by a 48.75 on her second dive. She closed her championship with a 47.25.

Evi Helsene was in fourth heading into the diving finals, but snuck past teammate Brenna Deason for third with a 374.7. Deason stayed in fourth with her 365.7, which cleared the field by 30 points.

Divers stand on the podium with their medals and take a selfie.
Brainerd's Izzy Olson, left, Evie Helsene, Brenna Deason and Meghan Wirtz snap a selfie with their medals on the podium during the Section 8-2A Girls Swimming and Diving finals Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Olson said diving for a section title was different compared to her other section meets because this was her first one at home. She called it more special. She said she really wanted it this year and she also wanted her teammates with her.

“It definitely helped that we were all in it together,” Olson said. “It’s crazy all four of us are in the top six. That’s literally unheard of. We’re all so close and we feed off of each other and how good we do. We all dove well.”


The top four divers advance to state. This will be Olson’s fourth state appearance, Deason's third and Helsene’s first. Meghan Wirtz did her best to make it a clean sweep at the top, but finished sixth with 334.55 points.

A diver in the air.
Brainerd's Evie Helsene dives during the Section 8-2A Girls Swimming and Diving finals Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“We had four outstanding divers and that gave us a huge lead and then we just hung on,” Anderson said. “ We won that 200 free relay and that was huge, but those divers are amazing. Mary (Strieff) is the best.”

The divers handed Brainerd an almost 50-point lead.

The 200 freestyle is Brainerd’s first relay victory since 2006 according to Anderson. Gabby Chalupsky led off and then Scarlett Anderson and Isabelle Ploof set up Mya Tautges. The junior entered the pool in second place. In front of her was Sartell’s Holly Lenarz, who had just won the 500 freestyle by 14 seconds. That didn’t phase Tautges who swam a lifetime-best split.

“We were in second and then Mya splits a 23.6 and beats the Sartell girl by a full second,” Anderson said. “It’s just the way Mya is. She just wasn’t going to lose. That was an amazing swim. All four of those girls."

Tautges couldn’t describe what came over her. She simply wanted to win for her senior teammate Chalupsky.

Mya Tautges smiles as she receives a medal.
Mya Tautges smiles after receiving her second place medal in the 50-yard freestyle during the Section 8-2A Girls Swimming and Diving finals Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“I just wanted to get first place because that announcement was so exciting for them,” Tautges said. “I wanted our senior to have those good thoughts. I was super pumped up for it. The coaches pumped us up for it for the last two weeks of practice.

“I was pretty confident. I just really wanted to get 23 and I did so I’m really proud of that.”


Tautges also finished second in the 50 freestyle to advance to state, but started the meet by helping Brainerd’s 200 medley relay to state. Tautges led off followed by Avery Duerr, Mariah Alderson and Ploof. The foursome swam a second-place 1:48.49 to advance.

“That was kind of a stressful deal,” Anderson said. “We believed we could make it on time standard, but you want to win it, too, though. We pushed our exchanges and it was close. To swim that fast off the bat and then I think everyone knows -- we’re ready.”

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Duerr also advanced in the 100 breaststroke. The freshman finished fourth, but qualified by time standard as she posted a 1:06.95. Brynn Haapajoki placed sixth in that event.

Eighth-grader Kaia Iske finished third in the butterfly with a 1:00.41. Junior teammate Autumn Larson placed fourth in 1:01.28 and Alderson finished seventh in 1:02.46.

Tautges finished fifth in the 100 free followed by Ploof in sixth and Chalupsky in seventh.

“Advancing to state in the medley gave me a lot of confidence,” Tautges said. “Then I knew I could do my other events. It gave me confidence for that. The 50 was super good. The person that got first is really good and I’m just happy I got second and I’m going to state.”

In all, Brainerd will be sending two relays, three divers and two individual swimmers to state.

“I don’t know how to celebrate this,” Anderson said with a laugh. “It’s been 22 years since we won our last one. I never thought we would win another one. I never thought we would win another relay again. It’s hard. You have four full-grown Brainerd girls. We’re not bringing anybody through open enrollment. You have to get four kids and you have to beat those schools. It’s hard. It’s fun though when you can do it.”

Team scores: 1-Brainerd 373, 2-Sartell 350, 3-Moorhead 336, 4-Buffalo 312, 5-St. Michael-Albertville 236.5, 6-Elk River 227.5, 7-Rogers 114, 8-Bemidji 64

200 medley relay: 1-Moorhead 1:47.31, 2-Brainerd (Mya Tautges, Avery Duerr, Mariah Alderson, Isabelle Ploof) 1:48.49

200 freestyle: 1-Arianna Hoff (M) 1;54.04, 9-Scarlett Anderson (Brd) 2:03.51, 10-Gabby Chalupsky (Brd) 2:04.08, 16-Sophie Mattson (Brd) 2:06.20

200 individual medley: 1-Lily Van Heel (STMA) 2:05.15, 6-Duerr 2:19.75, 14-Brynn Haapajoki 2:25.48

50 freestyle: 1-Madeline Francois (Sartell) 23.87, 2-Tautges 24.37, 4-Ploof 25.42, 9-Lexi Lugo (Brd) 26.29

Diving: 1-Izzy Olslon (Brd) 437.8, 3-Evi Helsene (Brd) 374.7, 4-Brenna Deason (Brd) 365.7, 6-Meghan Wirtz (Brd) 334.55

100 butterfly: 1-Alayna Janke (M) 58.47, 3-Kaia Iske (Brd) 1:00.41, 4-Autumn Larson (Brd) 1:01.28, 7-Alderson 1:02.46

100 freestyle: 1-Hoff 52.79, 5-Tautges 54.99, 6-Ploof 55.15, 7-Chalupsky 56.34

500 freestyle: 1-Holly Lenarz (Sartell) 5:01.98, 7-Larson 5:29.09, 12-Mattson 5:38.82, 13-Anderson 5:41.44

200 freestyle relay: 1-Brainerd (Chalupsky, Anderson, Ploof, Tautges) 1:39.14

100 backstroke: 1-Van Heel 55.05, 13-Iske 1:04.25

100 breaststroke: 1-Brianna Shroyer (Buffalo) 1:03.88, 4-Duerr 1:06.95, 6-Haapajoki 1:11.43

400 freestyle relay: 1-Moorhead 3:37.34, 6-Brainerd (Chalupsky, Iske, Duerr, Anderson) 3:50.18

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at .

Section 8-1A Finals

Diving highlights: Olson places first with Helsene 3rd, Deason 4th and Wirtz 6th.

Swimming highlights: Brainerd’s 200 freestyle relay takes home gold.

Next: Brainerd in Class 2A State swimming and diving meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 16

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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