Blaine girls’ swimming can add a program first as the group won its first Section 7AA True Team title at its home pool, Northdale Middle School, Oct. 13.
What was a close race to the final event sent the Bengals to the top of the podium, 23 points ahead of Duluth East.
The different format meet places more emphasis on a team’s depth than individual skills by awarding points to every swimmer. First place in a 28-swimmer race is awarded 28 points, while 28th place picks up one point. Points are doubled for relays.
Blaine only won three events but its depth from the third and fourth swimmers came through in the end.
“It was really about the depth of our team and we came into the season with a top-three goal as a reasonable expectation,” said Bengals coach Rory Coplan as Blaine has two runner-up finishes in previous years. “Our third and fourth individuals finished higher than their seed [times] and really stepped up for us.”
Blaine and Duluth East tied after the 200-yard freestyle relay with three events left. Blaine moved 11 points ahead after the 100 backstroke and another point in the 100 breastroke to set up a thrilling finish in the 400 free relay.
“You like to see the event decided at the end and we pulled it out,” Coplan said.
Anoka finished third with 946.5 points, Andover was fourth with 851 points and Coon Rapids was sixth out of seven teams with 700 points.
That success didn’t translate to the state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis Oct. 20 when Blaine finished last among the 12 teams in Class AA with 561 points.
Coplan said the idea at state was to take in the whole event and compete against the clock and not so much against the state-caliber level competition.
Minnetonka edged runner-up Wayzata by 103.5 points and third place Stillwater by 137.5 points.
Junior Erin Sullivan placed 24th in the 100 backstroke to lead the Bengals. Senior Taylor Conger place 29th in the 50 free and 32nd in the 100 free.
Rylee Slotsve was 29th in the 100 breaststroke.
Junior diver Nicole Wieden finished 11th with 314.35 points, while Maple Grove’s Lexi Tenenbaum won the meet with a score of 435.80.
Blaine began the meet with three 200-yard medley relay teams inside the top 11 places to score 138 points from those places. Add another 12 points for the fourth relay team, which placed 22nd, and it scored 150 points in the first event. Duluth East had three relays in the top 12, including the winning time, and scored 156 points to lead the standings early.
The Bengals excelled in the 100 backstroke where Erin Sullivan finished second in 1:02.09 while teammates Abby Hehr and Dana Langlee finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Blaine’s Miranda Sigler finished 11th to help the team score 90 points in the event.
The 200 free relay showcased more impressive times. Coon Rapids won with a 1:46.69, while Anoka had two relays in the top six places. The final event of the evening was the 400 free relay which Blaine won by six seconds and had two more relays finish 10th and 11th.
Slotsve won the 200 IM in 2:20.61, while Andover’s Maria McQuillan was third and teammate Camille Madsen was fifth. Kylie Benardczyk finished 10th to give the Huskies three swimmers in the top 10. Slotsve also won the 100 breaststroke by one one-hundreth of a second over Anoka’s Eliza Jacob (1:13.69 to 1:13.70). Andover’s McQuillan and Madsen scored 49 points by placing fourth and fifth in the event.
Anoka’s Kaitey Springer, Jessica Colby and Morgan Paaverud helped score 75 points in the 200 freestyle event. Springer was second in 2:06.24 while Coon Rapids’ Sam Starke won in 2:01.94. Starke also won the 100 fly in 1:01.87.