The Winona Senior High School girls swimming and diving team ended its season at the MSHSL Class A state meet, coming home with a couple of medals and its best team finish in the past 10 years.
Junior Issara Schmidt placed second in diving, while sophomore Carolyn Macon was eighth in the 100 butterfly to earn Winona a tie for the 19th spot along with Detroit Lakes after a competitive weekend at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center.
The Winhawks, however, weren’t completely satisfied with what transpired last weekend, and their coach knows it will stoke the fire heading into next season.
“The performances at state left our girls a little unhappy, but they also walked away with chins held high as the future looks incredibly bright,” coach Chris Mayer said.
Schmidt had three very good dives in the finals on Saturday, Mayer said, and came home with the highest finish ever for a Winona diver by placing second with 389.90 points. But it was still a bittersweet moment. Nerves got the best of Schmidt during Thursday’s preliminary round, although she did have some stellar dives in the semifinal round to close the gap to just four points heading into the finals.
“I think the fire in Issara burned a little brighter after the meet, wanting next year to take that top spot of the podium,” Mayer said.
She hopes teammate Morgan Walker, also a junior, will be there as well. Walker scored a 131.90 in the prelims and didn’t advance to the semifinals.
“This was a rough moment for Morgan, but afterwards she had a smile and a renewed desire to come back next year and perform her best,” Mayer said.
Macon, the lone swimmer to qualify for finals, wanted to go out hard in the 100 butterfly, and after 50 yards she was in second place. After 75 yards, she was in fourth, then over the last 25, fatigue set in, Mayer said, and Macon slipped to eighth in 58:03.
“She had no regrets,” Mayer said. “She went after the fastest girls in the state and sent a clear message for next year: She will not falter in that last 25.”
Like the divers, nerves were high for the swimmers in Friday’s prelims. The 200 medley relay of Anna MacLennan, Emily Robison, Macon and Mary Hoffman was disqualified after starting a little too fast on a relay exchange. Hoffman, the only swimmer with state experience, is the only senior of the group, meaning the others will be back.
Macon finished 24th in the 200 freestyle in 1:59.69 and didn’t qualify for Saturday’s finals before recovering to qualify in the 100 butterfly.
Mayer has high hopes for the future and drew some comparisons between the girls team now and the boys team — which has had multiple state champions the past few seasons — five years ago.
“It’s fun to look back and reminisce, so after the meet this weekend I spent some time reviewing my first year as a head coach of the boys program, five years ago,” he said. “That first year, the boys team went 4-4-1 in dual meets. They finished nine of 12 at Big 9, finished sixth of seven at sections, and took 28th at state. That year we brought one individual, one relay and one diver to state.
“This year for the girls, we finished as a 4-6 dual meet team. We finished ninth of 12 at Big 9. We had some great performances at sections to take fifth of 10, and we ended the season with the highest state finish in 10 years, 19th place. This year at state we brought one individual, one relay and two divers. After that first year with the guys team, the following years included the best finishes in school history. Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of some golden years for this girls team? I certainly hope so.
“I can’t wait for next year.”