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Bemidji girls swimmers headed off to state meet in MInneapolis

The Bemidji High girls swim team begins action at the state meet today at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center. Bemidji qualified three individuals and two relay teams. From left to right: Maris Jahner, Jana Hedstrom, Selina Gilbertson, Katie Verchota, Stephanie Frey and Dani Luby. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The largest Bemidji High girls swim contingent in a decade to reach the state meet will open today at the University of Minnesota's Aquatics Center.

Three individuals and three relay teams qualified for the state in Bemidji's first year in Class A.

In its many years as a AA school, the team found trips to the state infrequent battling such powers as Maple Lake, Elk River and Brainerd at the section level each y ear.

Since 1999, Bemidji did not qualify any state entrants four years, went scoreless in four others and registered three points in 2005.

In the preceding decade, however, it did far better with a school record 37 points in 1995, 21 in 1996 and 23 in 1997 during the Brooke McKee era.

This year Bemidji took third place behind surprising Park Rapids and favored Fergus Falls at the section meet at Warroad.

Reaching the state were the championship 200 free relay team of Steph Frey , Maris Jahner, Katie Verchota and Selina Gilbertson and the 400 free relay of Frey, Dani Luby , Verchota ands Gilbertson which finished second.

Also moving on as runners-up were Gilbertson in the 200 free, Frey in the IM and diver Jana Hedstrom, who finished fourth.

Only the top two individuals and relay teams plus the top five divers move on.

Hedstrom will be the only one in action today with the first rounds of diving competition leading off the state. The others swim in the preliminaries tomorrow with the top eight reaching the Saturday finals and the second eight qualifying for the consolation finals.

Bemidji's chances of scoring well are not the greatest with no one seeded in the top 16.

But several are not far off the pace and a time cut in the prelims might elevate them to the top16.

Gilbertson was 18 in the 290.

Frey narrowly missed going in the breaststroke where her third place finish was .01 off second place.

This is by far the largest group that Coach Woody Leindecker has taken to the state in his nine years as girls head coach. But with a good balance of swimmers in the next three grades, the future for the girls team looks extremely bright despite key graduation losses next spring.