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State Swimming and Diving: Surprises, high expectations for Warriors, Flyers

Cami Harmer (clockwise, left), Jamie Wallace, Jacqui Rude, Hannah Tatge, Madelynn Gibbons and Katie Streiff are going to state to represent Brainerd High School in swimming and diving. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Friday's Class 2A state swimming prelims could hold even more surprises for Brainerd Warriors head coach Dan Anderson.

That's how the coach felt after his 200-yard freestyle relay dropped six seconds from its best time in the regular season to finish second in the Section 8-2A meet and advance to the state tournament.

The foursome of Jamie Wallace, Jacquilyn Rude, Katie Streiff and Madelynn Gibbons swam a 1:39.38.

"That relay hadn't gone faster than 1:45 all year," Anderson said. "In fact, I think we were third at our conference meet so we weren't even all-conference with it.

"But we felt good. We felt good about the four girls that were on on it. We felt we could make the state cut even though that was a six-second drop. It was just kind of strange. The girls truly believed they could make the time cuts."

Anderson called it an emotional event for the swimmers, who he said were the only ones in the pool who felt they could advance. Anderson was shocked himself.

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State swimming and diving

  • Diving: Class 1A—Noon, Thursday prelims, Noon, Saturday finals; Class 2A—6 p.m. Thursday prelims, 6 p.m. Saturday finals.
  • Swimming: Class 1A—Noon, Friday prelims, Noon, Saturday finals; Class 2A—6 p.m. Friday prelims, 6 p.m. Saturday finals.
  • Where: University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Minneapolis.
  • Class 2A: Brainerd—Cami Harmer (diving); Jamie Wallace, Jacquilyn Rude, Katie Streiff, Madelynn Gibbons (200 free relay).
  • Class 1A: Little Falls—Alice Foote (50- and 100-yard freestyles); Rachel Josephson (50 freestyle); Josephson, Caitlin Gustafson, Rachel Pusc, Foote (400 free relay).

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"I was surprised at how the race shook out, to be honest," he said. "I thought there were four teams, I thought Rogers would be able to put a team together that could make it to state. Buffalo had a really good relay. St. Michael was the favorite and I kind of thought we would be in the middle of the pack someplace battling it out with Rogers and Buffalo and maybe sneak in third or fourth.

"Jamie got us out and we were maybe in second place and then Jackie got us the lead and we swam that whole race in the lead. That surprised me. It was like, 'Hey, we're winning this thing.' Then St. Michael had a super fast girl on the end of theirs and they were able to catch us and beat us by eight hundredths of a second."

Brainerd is seeded 18th, but just seven hundredths out of the top 16. The top 16 teams qualify for Saturday's finals. With the top eight advancing to the championship finals, places nine through 16 land in the consolation finals.

"I come back in on Monday and they asked where they were seeded," Anderson said. "I told them they're seeded 18th. Then they ask, 'What do we have to do to be eighth place?' They're already thinking in terms of not just making it, but being top eight. They're three tenths away from the school record and they're already talking as though that's going to happen."

This is Streiff's fifth state tournament. It's the second for Gibbons and Wallace and first for Rude.

They will be joined by senior diver Cami Harmer, who placed fourth in the Section 8-2A meet to advance to her third state meet. Diving prelims will be 6 p.m. Thursday.

"I'm not a diving coach, but she is a diving coach's dream because on meet days, every one of her dives, she just sticks them," Anderson said. "She was 18th last year so the expectation is she's going to make top 16. She's better this year."

Class 1A

Thirty seconds before the final race of the Section 6-1A meet, Little Falls head coach Tim Corbett made the most difficult decision of his coaching career.

While difficult, the decision proved to be correct as Corbett changed his 400-yard freestyle lineup by taking out his daughter Katie, a junior, and inserting junior Caitlin Gustafson. The relay went on to qualify for the Class 1A state meet with a near school-record time of 3:44.53.

"It just came down to Caitlin Gustafson was swimming too fast and too well and she needed to be on that relay," Corbett said. "As a coach, you need to determine which girl to take off the relay. Well, two years ago, it was my daughter who was the odd man out for the medley relay team that went to state and broke the school record.

"You have to turn in your lineup change before the event starts. The 100 breaststroke is the event before the relay. Before they blow the whistle to start the 100 breaststroke, I have to turn my change in. The three of us coaches are standing there and discussing it and they're doing the awards for the 100 backstroke. I had 30 seconds before they blew the whistle and I turned it in. It was that difficult of a decision to make." Gustafson, teamed with senior Alice Foote, and sophomores Rachel Josephson and Rachel Pusc to finish fourth and qualify for state.

Little Falls is seeded 17th.

"They have to move up, but they have the motivation to do that because you don't want to come that close and not put your name up on the record board," Corbett said. "We've got time to drop. There is room for improvement in that relay. I'm very excited about their chances of making finals at state."

The Flyers will start the meet of with two swimmers competing in the 50-yard freestyle.

Foote won the Section 6-1A title with a 24.45 and Josephson qualified for her first state meet with a 24.89.

Foote is seeded 10th, while Josephson is seeded 20th.

At last year's state meet, Foote finished eighth.

"Alice has gone a 24.45 three times in a row on taper," Corbett said. "Last year at state, she dropped a few hundredths to go 24.45. Then in prelims at sections she went 24.45 and then in finals of sections she went 24.45. I don't even know how you do that.

"It's such a short race, but she's just really ready to go. She went in seeded about 10th last year and snuck in top eight so it will be fun to see if she can sneak into the top eight again this year." Josephson wasn't 100 percent at Thursday's section prelims, but she just missed second at the state meet by one hundredth of a second. Josephson made state by time standard.

"24.89 was an amazing swim for her," Corbett said. "It was really important because going into next year, she'll believe she can get to state without Alice. She made it to state and now she'll have Alice to be a mentor on how to get ready for that stage.

"Next year, when she's on her own, this will help her not be so overwhelmed. It will be a tough go to make top 16, but we're just going to go out there and go after it and see what happens."

Foote finished sixth in the 100 free at last year's state meet with a 53.26. She swam a 52.90 in the state prelims. This year she's seeded fourth with a Section 6-1A winning time of 52.93.

"She's better in the 100 than in the 50," Corbett said. "That's going to be a fun race because she's very competitive in the 100. The farther she goes the stronger she gets. Her legs are like, I mean, I'd like to have that kind of motor on the back of my boat. Her legs just power her out. She doesn't turn that far in front of everybody, but she comes out of the water and suddenly they're at her waist.

"She's so strong coming in and out of the turns that I think will benefit her. When she kicks those legs in, it's just amazing."

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Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
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