Dan Anderson has never had an athlete like Olivia Tautges.

After a quality varsity soccer career, an injury forced the senior to step away from one sport and join the Brainerd Warriors swimming and diving squad. Despite being a rookie, Tautges has performed nothing like a first-year swimmer.

She won the 100-yard backstroke, placed third in the 50 freestyle and helped the 200 medley and 400 free relays to first-place finishes Tuesday, Oct. 19, as the Warriors topped the Fergus Falls Otters 118-41 for a Central Lakes Conference victory at Brainerd High School.

It was also the last swimming event at the high school pool. The hope is the new pool will be ready for the Warrior boys season. While no varsity records fell, three middle school records were destroyed by the team of Ella McCulley, Avery Duerr, Kaia Iske and Isabelle Ploof. The three eighth-graders and one seventh-grader teamed up for all three relays and broke all three records. Not only that, but they finished second in the 200 medley and the 400 free.

“It’s nice to close this old pool out with a win, but that’s the luck of the schedule,” Warrior head coach Dan Anderson said. “It’s a good meet that we could mix some things up. Some of these girls are tired of some of the same events over and over and over. We were trying to mix things up a little bit and keep them fresh. I thought we swam well for where we are in our training. We’re pretty tired in our training and we should be.”

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Mya Tautges won the 200 individual medley and the 50 free. Brenna Deason scored her third diving victory. Mariah Alderson won the 100 butterfly. Scarlett Anderson captured the 500 freestyle and Duerr won the 100 breaststroke for the Warriors who closed out the regular season with a 7-3 overall record.

“Any time you can win at the high school level in a high school meet that’s a big deal,” Anderson said. “It is kind of nice to see. Even if we mix things up, Fergus had four or five really good swimmers so you knew they were going to have somebody in every race. Then your teammates, luck of the draw who you're swimming against among your teammates. So wins don’t come easy.”

But Olivia Tautges is an anomaly. The injury occurred before last year’s basketball season, but the then-junior was able to come back and play softball for the Warriors. Not wanting to risk reinjury, she picked the path of least resistance. At least for her knee.

“I tore my ACL last year in soccer and it was still pretty early to go back this year,” Olivia Tautges said. “I didn’t want to risk getting injured so I figured I would try out swimming and see how it goes and prevent the risk of getting injured again and it would keep me in shape. It ended up being the best idea possible. I love it so much.”

Tautges said she missed playing soccer because she grew up playing it. She also thought about just sitting out the fall season altogether.

“Everyone here made it so welcoming, especially as a first-year person,” Olivia Tautges said. “They are such nice people and hard-working people. I’m just really thankful they were there to help me out. It’s my senior year and I just thought it was the last time I could try something else. So I did.”

Tautges won the backstroke in 1:07.06. That wasn’t a huge surprise as she won her very first backstroke against Bemidji back on Aug. 31. She posted a 27.27 in the 50 free for her third and teamed with Brynn Haapajoki, Alderson and Ella Ostrowski to win the 200 medley. She teamed with Gabby Chalupsky, Anderson and her younger sister Mya Tautges to win the 400 free in 3:59.87.

“I have surprised myself,” Olivia Tautges said. “I didn’t think I would be good at it. I tried doing it to see if I could actually swim a little bit at the Y(MCA) and I could barely do a 50. I was surprised that I could do these hard workouts. It’s like the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m doing it and I’m seeing progress.

“I picked the backstroke up really fast and it’s hard to go into the 50 free as a first-year because everyone can do it. It was open and I naturally had the muscles for it so it worked out.”

Aside from the conditioning, she said the hardest part has been breathing.

“Every sport you’re trained to breathe and here it’s ‘no, you want to breathe the least amount as you can.’” Olivia Tautges said laughing and breathing heavily. “That’s my problem. I like breathing.”

Despite being the older sister, Olivia has learned and appreciated what her younger sister Mya Tuatges has done in the pool. The two played varsity softball together last year, but with swimming Olivia quickly conceded to her sister.

“Here, I walked in knowing that she would be really good,” Olivia Tautges said. “I knew I would be behind, but it really pushes me. It’s rare, but I look up to her in a way. Seeing someone so good and so talented get such low times pushes me because I want to do that.”

Anderson has appreciated Oliva Tautges’ senior presence.

“Just to come in and swim the way she has and has stepped into a quiet leadership role,” Anderson said. “The kids look to her. She always has a smile on her face. She’s always positive. She works hard. She’s brought a lot more than just fast swimming to the team.”

Brainerd 118, Fergus Falls 41
200 medley relay: 1-Brainerd (Olivia Tautges, Brynn Haapojoki, Mariah Alderson, Ella Ostrowski) 2:02.91; 2-Brainerd (Ella McCulley, Avery Duerr, Kaia Iske, Isabelle Ploof) 2:04.80
200 freestyle: 1-Alexis Wellman (FF) 2:10.46, 2-Sophie Mattson (Brd) 2;11.09, 3-Scarlett Anderson (Brd) 2:14.13, 4-Autumn Larson (Brd) 2:15.66
200 individual medley: 1-Mya Tautges (Brd) 2:26.99, 3-Alderson 2:30.79, 5-Ploof 2:38.49
50 freestyle: 1-Annie Mayer (FF) 26.47, 2-Gabby Chalupsky (Brd) 27.26, 3-Olivia Tautges 27.27, 4-Alexis Lugo (Brd) 27.85
Diving: 1-Brenna Deason (Brd) 209.55, 2-Izzy Olson (Brd) 207.6, 3-Evie Helsene 194.70
100 butterfly: 1-Alderson 1:05.70, 2-Iske 1:06.40, 5-Hady Aker (Brd) 1:28.32
100 freestyle: 1-Mya Tautges 57.38, 3-Chalupsky 58.29, 5-Haapajoki 1:03.20
500 freestyle: 1-Scarlett Anderson (Brd) 5:54.56, 2-Larson 6:01.57, 4-Mattson 6:03.36
200 freestyle relay: 1-Fergus Falls 1:47.98, 2-Brainerd (Ostrowski, Chalupsky, Scarlett Anderson, Mya Tautges) 1:48.26; 3-Brainerd (Iske, Duerr, McCulley, Ploof) 1:52.10
100 backstroke: 1-Olivia Tautges 1:07.06, 3-Vanessa Anderson (Brd) 1:12.16, 4-Greta Gearey (Brd) 1:12.61
100 breaststroke: 1-Duerr 1:16.25, 2-Haapajoki 1:18.38, 3-Tinsley Porter (Brd) 1:22.29
400 freestyle relay: 1-Brainerd (Chalupsky, Scarlett Anderson, Olivia Tautges, Mya Tautges) 3:59.87; 2-Brainerd (Iske, Duerr, McCulley, Ploof) 4:09.05

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Warriors 118, Fergus Falls 41

Key: Brainerd collected 8 wins

Conference: Brd 5-3, FF 1-7.

Overall: Brd 7-3, FF 2-7.

Next: Brainerd in Central Lakes Conference championship at Sartell 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.