BEMIDJI -- This weekend featured the best performances the Bemidji High School girls swimming and diving team had seen all season, co-head coach Woody Leindecker said.
Competing at their home pool, the Lumberjacks placed fifth out of 10 teams in the Section 8A finals, which were held across three sites this weekend due to pandemic restrictions. With 230.5 points, BHS finished right behind fourth-place Fergus Falls (231), while Grand Rapids (535), Detroit Lakes (364) and Park Rapids (360) took the top three spots.
“To be honest with you, today was the first good meet we had all season,” Leindecker said Saturday after the swimming finals. “And what a great time for it to come during the (section) finals.”
Mady Schmidt opened the weekend with a bang for Bemidji, capturing the section title in diving on Friday.
“It’s unfortunate that Mady can’t dive at the state level because I think she’d be, for sure, booking for top five or higher,” Leindecker said.
Schmidt would have been the only Lumberjack to qualify for the state meet had it not been canceled by the Minnesota State High School League due to pandemic concerns. She’ll be in a good position to have another shot at state next season as a senior.
Sophie Jones nearly clinched a would-be state qualifying time in the 500-yard freestyle, missing out on a top-two finish by one second as she took third with a time of 5:40.92.
Jones also took sixth in the 200 free (2:06.56) to account for two of Bemidji’s nine individual top-10 finishes on the weekend. Miranda Port placed sixth (2:24.23) and Riley McCarthy 10th (2:28.32) in the 200 IM. McCarthy also finished fifth (1:07.11) in the 100 butterfly, while Emily Vincent took 10th (1:08.99). Lauren Lundquist placed eighth in diving (290.45) and Mackenzie Raisch 10th in the 500 free (6:04.15).
The Jacks also posted finishes of fourth, fifth and sixth in the 400 free, 200 free and 200 medley relays, respectively.
“If you look at the results and you look at their entry time compared to their out time, we had some amazing time drops this afternoon,” Leindecker said.
No section prelims were held this season, so this weekend’s finals were the only opportunity for Section 8A teams to compete together, albeit remotely. BHS, Detroit Lakes and Warroad each served as host sites, with no more than four teams allowed per location. Results were combined after swimming had concluded at each site and the final results were then tabulated.
“It wasn’t really about racing,” Leindecker said. “It was just really about staying in your lane and posting the best time that you could and then we’ll wait until seven o’clock tonight until we get word.”
The Jacks found a way to adapt to unusual circumstances throughout the year, including a condensed and shortened schedule, and reduced time in the water after months of pools being closed.
“This was one of my biggest challenges of coaching in 24 years,” Leindecker said. “I’m just happy that we made it. And I’m also disappointed there’s not a state championship this year. And I think that goes for all the fall sports.”
The team’s departing seniors include Demi Fisher, Kayleigh Hickman, Maddie Simula, Nicki Son, Jones, Lundquist, McCarthy and Port.
Seals place 8th
Fosston/Bagley placed eighth as a team Saturday with 85 points. Ashten Wolfe posted a pair of top-10 finishes for the Seals in the 50 free (9th, 26.9) and 100 free (10th, 59.93), and Emma Vig cracked the top 10 in the 100 backstroke (8th, 1:09.16).
1-Grand Rapids 535; 2-Detroit Lakes 364; 3-Park Rapids 360; 4-Fergus Falls 231; 5-Bemidji 230.5; 6-Thief River Falls 125.5; 7-Perham/New York Mills 119; 8-Fosston/Bagley 85; 9-Warroad/Roseau/GMR 73; 10-Crookston 62.