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GIRLS SWIMMING AND DIVING: Bemidji races past Thief River Falls, Perham/New York Mills in home meet

The Bemidji High School girls swimming and diving team showed swiftness and stamina in the pool Tuesday, dominating Perham/New York Mills 196-116 and Thief River Falls 192-116 in a home meet at BHS.

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The Lumberjacks cheer on Abigail Daman while she swims the 200-yard individual medley in a meet Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, against Perham and Thief River Falls at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School girls swimming and diving team showed swiftness and stamina in the pool Tuesday, dominating Perham/New York Mills 196-116 and Thief River Falls 192-116 in a home meet at BHS.

The performance earned the Lumberjacks their first two wins of the young season, something head coach Woody Leindecker said would be instrumental in helping them build toward their goals for the rest of the year.

“We had several season-best times,” Leindecker said. “We're about a month into the season now, and we're getting into shape now. So our next phase here is we just need to, now that we're in shape, we'll just work on our speed and our race pacing things in practice.”

That improved pacing powered Bemidji to individual wins in the 200-yard freestyle (Mackenzie Raisch, 2:23.27), 200-yard individual medley (Abigail Daman, 2:39.20), 100-yard butterfly (Ryan Gaskins, 1:07.78), 500-yard freestyle (Mackenzie Raisch, 6:30.71), 100-yard breaststroke (Daman, 1:18.33) and 400-yard freestyle relay (Elena Harmsen, Mya Lundeen, Daman and Gaskins; 4:17.05).

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Bemidji’s Ryan Gaskins swims the 200-yard medley relay in a meet Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, against Perham and Thief River Falls at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

On the diving board, the Lumberjacks’ Mady Schmidt led all competitors with a score of 250.07, over 25 points above the second-place finisher.

The meet represented progress for BHS, which Leindecker hopes to build on in upcoming practices.

“Yeah, it's nice to win. And we'll have a little spring in our step at practice tomorrow,” he said. “If you get a best time when you're tired from training, it builds confidence, and you just want to keep grinding and see what happens in November.”

The Lumberjacks have a young team, one that has come along as the season has continued. Now, after a taste of success, the key will be to sustain growth to the end of the season.

"There comes a point with a swimmer where they'll hit a plateau, and everybody hits that plateau at a different time,” Leindecker said. “And when you do hit that plateau, it takes a little bit to learn how to swim fast (while) tired. And then when you can swim fast tired, then at the section championships when we're rested, that's where we want to peak. And that's what we're trying to do.”

Leindecker described this as a rebuilding year for a program that has had consistent success over the past decade. But though Bemidji has a preponderance of younger swimmers, its upperclassmen will play a key role in determining where the Lumberjacks will finish this season. In some ways, BHS will swim as far -- and as fast -- as its older leaders take it.

"I am seeing the young kids step up, but I am seeing a huge improvement from our upperclassmen this year,” Leindecker said. “They've all been doing a great job this season. They've been working hard and doing what they're asked to do. And it's showing in the pool. … (That's) big time because (in) any sport, your younger kids look up to the older kids.”

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BHS returns to the water for the West Fargo Invite at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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