BEMIDJI -- With team Section 8A titles in each of the last seven seasons, the Bemidji High School girls swimming and diving team is no stranger to the state meet at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center.
The Lumberjacks had their streak end this season, but they’ve sent five swimmers down to compete across seven events.
“They’re feeling great,” BHS coach Kristen McRae said. “I think everybody at this stage right now, they’re probably all feeling the same. They had a couple of big race days last week, and now just to get them working out the kinks and get refreshed and ready to go again, it’s a good thing.”
Four of the five Bemidji competitors are seniors, including Paige Andersen, Abby Yartz, Claudia Vincent and Gabbi Takkunen.
“It means a lot,” Andersen said. “We’ve grown up swimming together since we were little, so it’s fun to all stick with it and get to experience this together.”
Andersen and Yartz will each swim four events. Andersen will sprint the 50 and 100 freestyle races and swim a leg of the 200 and 400 relay races.
“My goal is to make it to finals the second day,” said Andersen. “I want to break my 50 free record again, and I’m hoping both our relays are able to make it to finals and hopefully break those records, as well.”
Yartz will compete in the 100 backstroke, the 200 individual medley and will also be in the two relays.
“I think it’s pretty exciting going down every time, because it’s never the same experience,” Yartz said. “Especially being down there with all my friends, it’s never the same thing twice.”
Laura Davis, the lone junior of the group, will be in the 200 freestyle and both relays, as well.
Joining Andersen, Yartz and Davis in the relays will be Vincent in the 200 and Takkunen in the 400.
“It’s really fun to have that many people go down,” Davis said. “I mean, it’s five, but I think that’s quite a bit. And it’s cool because they’re seniors, so I get to spend time with them since I’m a junior.”
While missing out on the team’s eighth straight team title wasn’t what Bemidji wanted, Andersen said she was happy with the way the Jacks swam at the section meet.
“It’s exciting and fun,” she said. “I’m really proud of how we performed at sections and how everyone who qualified for state performed, as well.
“Breaking the streak was upsetting a little bit, but I think as a team as a whole, we performed really well. Everyone dropped time and mostly everybody made it to finals at sections, so that was a good accomplishment.”
The Jacks took off from BHS Tuesday afternoon, will have a warm-up at the pool Wednesday morning and then the preliminary heats for the state meet begin at noon Thursday, Nov. 15, with the finals to follow on Friday, Nov. 16.
“Our four seniors who are representing us this weekend and our junior Laura Davis, those four kids have been swimming together for a long time,” McRae said.
“I remember their sophomore year, they did an article on the sophomore phenoms that we had, and it was this group of kids. So kind of full circle. They’re reaping the benefits of all their dedication and hard work with the program.”