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Five Bemidji High School swimmers and divers qualified to compete at the state meet beginning on Monday at the U of M Aquatic Center. Shown front left, Libby McRae, Morgan Williams and Kylei Grosfield. In back are Erin Arndt and Danielle Hoven. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji takes 'blue collar' attitude to state swimming and diving meet

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BEMIDJI — When the season started a few months ago Bemidji High School girls swimming coaches Woody Leindecker and Kristin McRae weren’t sure how successful their athletes would be. What they did know, however, was that the girls would do what was required to become the very best they could be.

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“These girls are blue collar,” McRae said. “They work on their swimming all year. They have grit and they have determination. This is a great group to coach.”

That grit and determination vaulted the Lumberjacks to their third consecutive Section 8A championship a week ago and leading that successful charge were swimmers Erin Arndt, Danielle Hoven, Morgan Williams and Libby McRae plus diver Kylei Grosfield. The swimmers qualified for the state meet in the 200 free and 400 free relays plus some individual events while Grosfield will make her third consecutive trip to the state Class A diving meet.

In addition to the two relays, Arndt will swim in the 200 individual medley, Hoven will compete in the 50 free, McRae will swim in the 500 free and 100 fly while Williams will represent the Jacks in the 200 free.

The state Class A meet begins noon Monday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center with the diving preliminaries while the swimmers will stage their preliminaries at noon on Tuesday. The top 16 divers and swimmers in each event will advance to Wednesday’s noon consolation and championship finals.

Grosfield and the swimmers all have previous experience at the state meet and also have been able to glean confidence from teammate Steph Frey who graduated last year. Frey was a regular at the state competition and capped her career by placing second in the 200 IM and the 100 free.

“The girls learned a great deal from Steph last year,” Leindecker said. “This season our roster didn’t have the best athlete at Bemidji High School but we have good swimmers who learned from the best.”

McRae agreed, saying that Frey paved the way by demonstrating the proper way to train and to swim and, more importantly, how to be a great teammate.

“This year’s upperclassmen have taken the younger swimmers under their wing,” McRae said. “They are helping their younger teammates in every way and that is exactly what Steph did.”

Arndt and Hoven are among the upperclassmen and the seniors hope to end their careers in style.

“Swimming at state in the individual events gives you the feeling of accomplishing something special but the relays are the most fun because you are working together,” Arndt said.

In 2010 Arndt qualified for state in the 100 fly and two relays. Last fall she was part of two more relays and also swam in the 200 individual medley.

“This year the goal is to have our relays be as fast as they can be, race our best and have fun,” Arndt said. “The ultimate goal is to qualify for Wednesday’s finals.”

A year ago Hoven represented Bemidji in the 200 medley relay, the 200 free relay and the 400 free relay.

“This year I made it in the 50 free and that is the first time I made state in an individual event,” Hoven said. “With the relays I think there is more pressure because you are swimming with other people and you want to win as a team. But also making it in the 50 is icing on the cake.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my senior season.”

McRae and Williams are sophomores and both are making their second straight trips to the state meet.

“Last year I swam in the fly and the medley relay,” McRae said. “I really didn’t know what to expect but this year I’ll be better prepared.”

McRae’s goal is to be swimming on Wednesday in at least one event which would mean a top-16 finish in Tuesday’s preliminaries.

“I think that’s a realistic goal,” she said. “I like all of the events and I know what to expect at state. I’m excited to see what happens.”

Williams plans to hold nothing back because she wants to challenge herself against the best swimmers in the state.

“Individually, I’ll be swimming my last 200 free of the season and I’m just going to give it everything I have,” she said. “But the relays are where I really want us to do well. It’s exciting swimming with Erin, Danielle and Libby and we want to go out with a bang.”

Grosfield will be competing at the state diving competition for the third straight season and the freshman has learned a few lessons along the way.

“I’ve learned not to let the nerves or the state atmosphere get to me,” she said. “I think the past two years I let the moment get to me and I didn’t listen to myself. But now I’m a year or two older and wiser.”

Grosfield is ranked among the top five Class A divers in Minnesota and she is excited to test herself among the best.

“Right now I’m seeded No. 2 and during Monday’s preliminaries and Wednesday’s finals my goal will be to do what I know how to do,” she said.

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Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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