by ALLISON M. MUELLER
The bleachers at Winona Senior High School’s pool were jam-packed on Tuesday, October 7, as the parents of 48 swimmers and divers flooded the stands to show their support for their daughters on parents’ night.
The Winona swim and dive team members recognized the support of their parents as head swim coach Steve Burt announced the parents of each athlete, who were given a flower and stood poolside next to their daughter or daughters — there are five sets of sisters on the team.
The swim and dive team, composed of athletes from Winona Senior High School, Winona Middle School, Hope Lutheran High School and Cotter Schools, also delivered a 96-84 win over Austin at the meet on Tuesday.
“The team in general responded really well in front of a really good crowd. Most of the bleacher space was full and I think our girls really wanted to do well in front a big crowd, and they did that,” said Burt.
Winona finished first and second in four events and posted many impressive races.
Junior Morgan Whyte, who went to state in 2011 and 2012 and qualified for state for the 400 freestyle relay in 2013, swam on two winning relay teams against Austin. Her team posted a time of 27.44 for the 200 freestyle relay and 58.50 for the 400 freestyle relay. In addition, she posted the two best times of the season for the 200 and 500 freestyle events with times of 2:04.19 and 5:35.90 respectively.
Junior Alex Arnold won the 200 IM with a time of 2:25.98 and the 100 freestyle with a time of 57:94. She was also part of two winning relay teams, the 200 freestyle relay (26.35) and 400 freestyle relay (58.63).
Diving coach Jeremiah Jackson said he was happy with how the meet went for the divers, and dual meets are a good place to test out new dives. Junior Emilee Degnan and senior Sarah Scherbring both performed difficult dives in front of three judges. The degree of difficulty is used to determine the diver’s final award for each dive.
The Winona swim and dive team lost 10 seniors from last season, three of which were state qualifiers. The program this year is young, with only five seniors — one as a first-year swimmer — and 21 athletes who are seventh and eighth graders with no prior experience. The dive team is made up of eight divers, four of which are new to diving.
Burt said, “Coaching has been more difficult this year with all the new and inexperienced athletes. However, we have some really good athletes who, with a couple years of seasoning, should be real tough.”
A few of the girls are already “seasoned” enough and are anticipated to qualify for state in the class AA level, continuing the 10-year state qualifying streak for Winona since Burt has been coaching. These athletes include Hanna O’Neill, Whyte, Arnold, Scherbring and Degnan.
Sophomore Emily Boettger is a first-year swimmer who, Burt said, “works hard and really wants to get better, and she is.”
In the meet against Austin, Boettger dropped 18 seconds from her best 200 freestyle time.
After a successful meet against Austin, the Winona swim and dive team traveled to Hastings to compete in the True Team Invitational on Saturday, October 11.
At this meet the team finished fifth out of six teams. Burt said almost everyone on the team swam better than their pre-meet seed times or positions in the meet, making for “a very fun meet for Winona.”
Alexa Lofgren, Whyte and Arnold all medaled in four events on Saturday, along with Scherbring and Degnan placing in the top 10 for diving.
Whyte posted a time of 2:03:01 for 200 freestyle, her season best, and 5:31 for the 500 freestyle, a season and all-time best for the junior swimmer.
Arnold swam her season best for both the 200 IM and 100 freestyle with times of 2:24 and 57:38 respectively.
The Winona swim and dive team faced Rochester Century on Monday, October 13. As the Winona swim and dive team continues to improve from meet to meet, a visit to state from multiple athletes this season seem more in reach than ever.
JV Big Nine will be held at Northfield on October 20, followed by Varsity Big Nine on November 1. The state qualifying meet, Section1AA, will take place on November 6 and 8.