By Lori Mork
After swimming a 1:57.26 to finish third in the preliminary round of the Section 6A swimming and diving meet’s 200 medley relay race, Kalli Bowser, Hannah Eklund, Madalyn Winger and Beth Burnham looked like they could fall short of a spot at state.
Sartell, last year’s runner-up in this event, and Melrose, another state entry in the 2011 meet, were both ahead of the Cardinals with state qualifying times. But the Redbirds had a little something left in the tank.
“The most surprising result came when Bowser, Eklund, Winger and Burnham placed third [in the finals], dropping a total of 6.7 seconds for the weekend and eclipsing the state qualifying time by 0.03 seconds in the process on Saturday,” said Cardinal head coach Mark Storhaug when speaking of all the relay teams’ final top eight finishes. “They will be advancing to next weekend’s “Big Show” at the U of M Aquatic Center in the Twin Cities.”
The relay team came into the meet with a 2:01.96 best time in the regular season, and cut 4.7 seconds in the preliminaries before swimming a 1:55.20 in the championship round.
The foursome will swim in the third heat of the Class A meet on Friday when the preliminaries begin at noon. The championship rounds begin at noon on Saturday.
Alexandria will face both Section 6A foes Sartell-St. Stephen and Melrose in that heat.
The 200 medley relay’s success was just one part of a successful weekend for the Cards, who had 24 season bests in the preliminaries alone.
They finished third overall behind both Sartell and Melrose, improving on last year’s finish.
“The Redbirds greatly improved from last year’s seventh place finish,” said Storhaug. “Sartell successfully defended its title [for the third time] by outscoring Melrose.
“The competition produced three new section records, two by Sartell’s Ellen Bloom in the 200 IM and 100 back and by Sartell’s 400 free relay. Bloom was named swimmer of the meet.”
Alexandria advanced nine individuals to the finals on Saturday, and finished with nine top-eight finishes in the championship heat, more than the three from last year.
Along with Winger’s performance in the relay, she also finished sixth in the 200 IM in 2:22.36 after setting a personal best in the prelims with a 2:22.29. Winger was eighth in the 500 free in 5:49.36 and also had a personal best in the prelims of 5:47.52.
Eklund was third in the 100 breaststroke in 1:11.06, finishing just 0.36 seconds from the state qualifying time. Her prelim time of 1:10.89 was a season best for her. She was also eighth in the 200 IM with a time of 2:29.79, after a prelim time of 2:24.45, her best of the year.
Bowser medaled twice for the Cards individually as she was fourth in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:03.77 and fifth in the 100 free in 56.02.
Megan Bristow was seventh in the 200 free with a 2:07.73 after setting a 2:05.17 personal best in the prelims. She was also fourth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:11.75.
Kate LeBrasseur finished seventh in the 200 IM with a time of 2:26.14 after setting a season best in the prelims of 2:24.36.
Alexandria’s 200 and 400 free relays both finished in the top eight as Rachel Peterson, Bristow, Jaylen Olson-Rodel and Burnham were fifth in the 200 event in 1:44.36, and Winger, LeBrasseur, Bowser and Peterson were fifth in 3:52.60.
“Overall, it was a great weekend for the Cardinals,” said Storhaug. “Of the 32 swims, 24 were season best times, plus five of the nine swims on Saturday were improvements over the prelims on Friday.
“Peterson, Bristow, Winger, Eklund, Bowser, Burnham and Hannah Lindgren all posted two season best times each. Some of the biggest improvements came from Eklund, who dropped over four seconds in her 200 IM; Olson-Rodel slicing over two seconds in the 100 fly; Lindgren taking off over two seconds in the 100 breaststroke and Alyssa Welle shaving nearly five seconds in the 500 free.