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SWIMMING: Bemidji ready to section defend title

BEMIDJI – The section championship and berths at the state meet will be on the line Friday and Saturday when the Bemidji High School girls swimmers and divers join their Section 8A peers for the section meet in Warroad.

BHS is the defending champion and has targeted this meet since the first day of practice.

The Lumberjacks, however, will also carry a bullseye on their backs and must be prepared to give their best efforts.

“I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve seen favorites win and I’ve seen favorites lose” said Jacks coach Woody Leindecker. “We weren’t the favorite last year and we took the championship. Park Rapids and Fergus Falls are looking to do the same to us this weekend.

“But we are going to Warroad with the intention of winning the section.”

Bemidji’s roster will include 15 swimmers and three divers and most of the athletes are seeded high in their events.

Leading the charge are the top 200 yard medley, 200 free and 400 free relay teams. All are ranked No. 1 and if they can live up to that billing they will provide key points for the Lumberjacks.

“I think the key to winning the section will be the relays,” Leindecker said. “The points are doubled in the relay events so a team can take a big jump if it can win all three.”

The fall has been spent developing speed and depth and those attributes will be important assets for the Lumberjacks this weekend.

“We have solid scorers. In every event we have at least three swimmers ranked in the top eight,” Leindecker said.

“If everybody can improve on their seeds the depth and versatility that we’ve had all year will score points and things will take care of themselves.”

Friday’s schedule features the preliminary races. The top 16 in each event will advance to Saturday’s consolation and championship brackets. Although points will be scored in both brackets, only the athletes qualifying for the championship heat will have a chance to advance to the state meet.

“The top two swimmers in each event, the top two relays and the top four divers make state,” Leindecker explained. “The swimmers can also make state by reaching a qualification time. I think we have a shot at doing well at Warroad and have the potential to send a large roster to the state meet.”

Bemidji’s top-seeded 200 medley relay quartet includes Maris Jahner, Morgan Williams, Lexie Hendricks and Mackenzie Ritchie. The 200 free relay unit of Ritchie, Katie Krause, Williams and Jahner also owns the top seed as does the 400 free relay squad of Erin Arndt, Williams, Hendricks and Libby McRae.

Leindecker also has other swimmers he can put into the relays if the situation warrants a switch.

“We have such a luxury in being able to move people around in our relays,” the coach said. “Our goal is to advance all three to state.”

Bemidji’s individual top seeds include Steph Frey in the 200 individual medley and the 100 free plus Hendricks in the 500 free.

Seeded second are Kylei Grosfield in diving, McRae in the 100 fly, and Danielle Hoven in the 100 breast. Heading into the meet as the third seed is Erin Arndt in the 200 IM and the 100 fly.

“Friday will be stressful. You can’t win the meet on Friday but you can lose it,” Leindecker said. “I’ve seen teams blow it by being flat on Friday and I’ve seen teams win it by coming in hot.

“We are going into the section meet fully rested so we should be at our best. But we’re not taking anything for granted.”

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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