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Girls Swimming: Nemanich, Thompson ready for state's best

Red Wing junior Ashley Thompson (left) and senior Amy Nemanich will compete in the Class 1A girls state swimming preliminary meet Friday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Thompson will swim the 100-yard breaststroke and Nemanich qualified for her first state meet in the 500 freestyle. Photo by Chris Harrell/Republican Eagle

Hard work comes naturally to Amy Nemanich and Ashley Thompson. While work ethic doesn't always equal success, Nemanich and Thompson will see it pay off this year as Red Wing's entrants into the Class 1A state swimming and diving preliminary meet Friday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.

Nemanich, a senior, will compete in the 500-yard freestyle. Thompson, a junior, will swim the 100 breaststroke. Their qualifying times are both within striking distance of making the finals Saturday.

"You hope that they re-taper well and go into it thinking, 'I have to make it now,'" head coach Kevin O'Brien said. "They worked really hard all year. ... I expect at least one to make it back to finals."

Thompson went to the state meet as an individual in the 100 breaststroke as an eighth-grade but will be returning with experience and a better qualifying time. She finished in 1 minute, 9.99 seconds at the section finals.

"Basically, I want to stay focused and positive and tell myself I can do it," Thompson said.

O'Brien said he expects Thompson to drop time at state because she wasn't flawless at the section meet. She can get better on her turns and it is about measuring the right amount of strokes before getting to the wall, he said.

"She's got room to improve there," O'Brien said. "It's so big in the breaststroke. It is all about the power from every stroke."

This will be Nemanich's first year competing at state. When she first started swimming, she said she realized she wasn't good at sprints and accepted her role as a long-distance swimmer for Red Wing.

"There haven't been a whole lot of distance swimmers," she said. "It's been a place to fill."

Nemanich puts everything she has into each race, especially one that taxes a swimmer mentally. But she's able to block it out and her turns have gotten better and better throughout the season, O'Brien said.

"She is the hardest worker on the team," O'Brien said. "You are basically sprinting the whole thing. Amy's turns have come so far. It's going to be, 'How bad does she want it?'"

Section meet

At the Section 1A meet last week, Nemanich dropped eight seconds off her season-best time to finish second in the 500 freestyle and qualify for the state meet.

O'Brien said she can still drop more time but it will be a little more difficult after tapering for sections and because her turns have already improved throughout the season. She will swim in lane seven during heat one of the 500 freestyle.

"To see that 8-second drop is pretty huge," O'Brien said. "It wouldn't surprise me if she were to drop more. It's definitely doable."

Both Wingers hope to make the finals Saturday with one of the top 16 times in their respective races.

"I'll try to for sure be an alternate and drop some time," Nemanich said, "but you can't really control how other people do.

"It's a great way to end a high school swimming career," she added. "It gave me a lot of confidence in what I can do if I put my mind to it."

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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