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Bemidji sends three swimmers to state

Steph Frey earned a spot at next week's state meet when she won the 200 free during Saturday's 8A meet. Frey also captured the 200 breast stroke. Joining her at state will be diver Jana Hedstrom and Lexie Hendricks in the 500 free. ioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The athlete in Jana Hedstrom wasn't satisfied Saturday at the Section 8A swimming and diving meet. But after further review, the high school junior was elated.

Hedstrom finished second in diving at the section meet held at the Bemidji High School pool and that performance was rewarded with a trip to next week's state meet.

Joining Hedstrom at state will be Lexie Hendricks, who qualified in the 500 free, and Steph Frey, who will compete in the 200 free and 100 breast stroke.

The top four divers and the top two finishers in the swimming and relay events earned trips to the state competition.

As a team the Lumberjacks finished second with 307.5 points. Park Rapids successfully defended its 8A crown as the Panthers tallied 422.5.

Fergus Falls placed third with 278 and Detroit Lakes captured fourth with 266.

Rounding out the team scores were Perham-New York Mills with 243, Warroad-Roseau-BGMR with 214, Thief River Falls with 149.5, Crookston with 131.5 and Bagley-Fosston with 123.

Hedstrom held the lead following Friday's eight dives and her plan was to maintain the advantage and win the section title.

But things don't always turn out as planned.

"I think there might have been some nerves," Hedstrom said. "I was concentrating so hard on my dives and trying to do my best that I messed up some of them Saturday. I went higher than I am used to on some dives and that meant that I was doing my entries (into the water) sooner than usual.

"When I was done I was upset that I didn't dive my best but I'm happy that I made it to state," Hedstrom said.

A year ago Hedstrom finished in a tie for third place at the section meet and also qualified for the state meet where she finished 16th. That experience will serve as a great ally this year.

"Last year I learned that you have to work your hardest and you have to concentrate on every dive if you want to place at state," Hedstrom said. "And this year I'm ready to place."

Although Hendricks earned her trip to the state meet in the 500 free by placing second Saturday, the sophomore said that Friday's preliminary race set the table for Saturday's feat.

"I wanted to be seeded next to Libby Larson of Detroit Lakes in the finals," Hendricks said. "Larson won it last year and was the favorite this year, and I wanted to keep her in sight. I knew the third-place girl (Leah Meinert of Park Rapids) was a good finisher so I wanted to get ahead of her for the stretch."

Hendricks followed her game plan from start to finish and the result was second place with a time of 5:32.98.

Larson did win the race in 5:31.15 and Meinert was a distant third with a time of 5:38.01.

Hendricks felt comfortable from the start and with each lap her confidence grew.

"I felt very good the entire way," she said. "I opened the race controlled and went out feeling smooth.

"My goal at the start of the year was to get to state and looking at how I did last year and who in the section had graduated, I felt I could do this. Now my goal is to finish in the top 16 and score some points."

Frey was elated with her performances and her 1:56.07 in the 200 free shattered the school and pool record.

"The day started off very well for me when I dropped four seconds from Friday's 2:00.29 in the 200 free," the sophomore said.

She also missed the school record in the 200 breast by 0.03.

"It was a great day," Frey said.

The sophomore is making a return trip to the state meet as she swam the 200 IM and in two relays last year.

"I think last year's experience will help calm my nerves," Frey said. "I already have competed at the pool and I have another year of experience under my belt. My goal will be to do my best and try to make it to the podium."

While Hedstrom, Hendricks and Frey had a memorable Saturday at the pool, as a team Bemidji was disappointed that they couldn't catch Park Rapids.

"Second place is nice and we moved up from third place last year but our goal was to win the section," said BHS coach Woody Leindecker. "We were hoping to get at least one relay to state but we came up short on all three.

"The story of our day was we were just out-touched."

Saturday began on a negative note when Bemidji was disqualified in the 200 medley relay final.

In the 200 free relay the Lumberjacks finished third but missed second place by only seven-one hundreths of a second.

In the meet's final event, the 400 free relay, Bemidji finished fourth.

"It was a bittersweet day," Leindecker said. "We came up short on some performances but I am thrilled to see Lexie make state because it is a just reward for all the work she has put in. And we're excited to have Jana and Steph return to state as well."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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