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This week at BHS: Swimmers, divers excel at section meet

The Bemidji girls swimming and diving team captured its third straight Section 8A championship Saturday at the Bemidji High School pool and advanced athletes to the state meet in eight of the 12 events. Submitted Photo

When Bemidji High School swimming coach Woody Leindecker analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the Section 8A teams last week he came to the conclusion that the Lumberjacks had a shot at winning their third straight section title.

"But everything had to come into place," Leindecker said at the time.

Friday and Saturday at the Bemidji High School pool everything did come together as the Jacks had a near-perfect showing during Friday's preliminaries and carried those performances into Saturday's finals.

BHS not only won the section meet, the Lumberjacks steamrolled their section peers, scoring 438 points and enjoying a 111-point edge over runner-up Park Rapids.

"It was a perfect weekend," Leindecker said. "But the better day was Friday because everybody put themselves into the positions to score points. And Saturday the girls just slammed the door shut. Nobody had a chance to catch us."

The section scoring format rewards points for finishing in the top 16 in each event and Bemidji's immediate goal was to place as many athletes as possible into those positions.

"We knew what our top dogs were going to do but the question marks were our first timers at the section meet," Leindecker said. And the first timers came through.

Those newcomers to the pressure of a section meet included Madi Knutson who was 10th in the 200 individual medley and fifth in the 100 back, Amayah Littlewolf who finished 13th in the 100 fly, Kenda Jacobson who was right behind her in the event, Jenna Hendricks who placed ninth in the 100 free, Hannah Sether who was 11th in the 500 free, Gabby Takkunen who finished 14th in the 100 breast stroke and 13th in the 200 IM plus Paige Anderson who claimed sixth in the breast stroke and eighth in the 50 free.

Kylei Grosfield, who won the diving, also contributed to the effort by placing 12th in the 50 free.

"Those girls had never been in the section meet before but they all made it to Saturday," Leindecker said. "Paige was very impressive because she made the podium (top eight) in her two events as a seventh grader. Usually the newcomers to a section meet have no idea what they are doing, which is good, or they come in scared. Our young swimmers just came to the pool and swam."

Bemidji's veterans also swam hard both days and the reward was making the state meet in eight of the 12 events.

"Our big guns did what we expected," the coach said.

Grosfield, although only a freshman, will be making her third straight appearance at the state meet in diving. On Saturday she capped her section meet by sticking three difficult dives and finishing with 442.80 points. A distant second was Kyley Foster of Detroit Lakes who scored 408.20.

Morgan Williams won the 200 free (2:02.72) as did Erin Arndt in the 200 IM (2:18.26) and Libby McRae in the 500 free (5:26.87). Placing second and punching her ticket to state was Daniel Hoven in the 50 free (35.35) while McRae earned a trip to state after finishing third in the 100 fly with a state-meet qualification time of 1:01.49.

"Danielle qualified third in the 50 free final and that is a great position to be in because there is no pressure and you can be a spoiler," Leindecker said. "And that's what she did, swimming a great race and finishing second. And sophomore Mackenzie Ritchie missed making it to state in the 200 free by only .02. She cut five seconds off her section entry time and had a great meet."

The Lumberjacks also are sending the 200 free and 400 free relay teams to state. Both teams feature Williams, Anrdt, Hoven and McRae.

Usually the state meet is one week after the section meet but this year, because the University of Minnesota pool is unavailable during the weekend, the start of the state competition has been pushed back to Monday, Nov. 18 when the divers will stage their preliminaries. The swimming preliminaries will be Nov. 19 and the championship and consolation races will be Nov. 20.

"Having to wait those extra few days before going to state will mean a little different preparation," Leindecker said."Usually we maintain what we have after the section meet and just go for it at state. But this week we may have to bring it in practice the first few days and then come down on Friday and Saturday before we travel to the Twin Cities.

"It's a long lag time but it's the same for everybody."

How the Lumberjacks will fare at state remains to be seen but Leindecker is optimistic.

"Our mantra all year was 'Mission Possible.' We talked about that every day since August," Leindecker said. "Now our word is 'Mission Accomplished' and we'll go to the state meet and see how we compete with the big dogs."

After Saturday's section meet Leindecker was named the Section 8A Co-Coach of the Year, sharing the honor with Tom Uvaas of Fergus Falls. Ryan Onstad was named the Diving Coach of the Year and Grosfield was named the section's Diver of the Year.

Girls hockey at home

The Bemidji girls hockey team continues its three-game homestand to open the season this week, hosting Grand Rapids tonight and Thief River Falls on Friday. Both games will begin at 7:30 pm. at the Community Arena.

The Jacks are coming off Friday's 4-0 loss to East Grand Forks in their season opener.

On Monday another five BHS winter sports teams held their first day of practice. The boys hockey team put on the skates for the first time while the boys basketball, gymnastics and girls and boys skiers also opened their seasons.

On Nov. 18 the girls basketball and wrestling teams will begin to practice and on Nov. 25 the boys swimmers and divers will start their year.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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