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Girls Swimming: Small lineup, big hopes for Wingers

Red Wing senior Ashley Thompson returns to the Wingers’ lineup after reaching state in the 100-yard breaststroke last year. Red Wing girls swimming and diving opens the season Thursday in Northfield. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)

Forced to swim with a young squad in 2012, Red Wing is seeing that strategy work in the long haul.

Opening practice last week, gone is having to teach a large portion of the team the basics. Now, the Wingers can get into the tougher training in a timely fashion.

“We don’t have much stroke technique to correct; the strokes are looking pretty good so far,” said Red Wing third-year head coach Kevin O’Brien. “We can get back to basic memory things as far as technique so we can focus on the training and get to the real hardcore race training sooner rather than later.”

The Wingers take to the pool for their first meet Thursday: the Missota Conference relays at Northfield. 

“We got a really good core group of swimmers returning,” O’Brien said. “It’s going to be a smaller squad, but it’s going to be good as far as who’s on the team.”

Returning to Red Wing’s lineup is senior captain Ashley Thompson, who qualified for state last year in the 100-yard breaststroke. With that experience at the University of Minnesota last year, Thompson has been able to help the rest of the Wingers who are in pursuit of a state appearance.

“The girls really look up to her,” O’Brien said of Thompson. “Having gone to state last year, she can lead some of those girls who just missed the state cut last year, help motivate them and get them to state this year.”

In the sprint events, O’Brien is seeing some improvements from Ingrid Olson and Carly Boisen. 

“Carly is getting fast and she’s looking good in the freestyle and the (butterfly),” O’Brien said.

Olson, who missed out on a state bid last year in the 50 freestyle by .25 seconds, also could see time in the 500 freestyle, following the graduation of Amy Nemanich, who qualified for state last fall in the 500. Hannah Kolsky also looks to be in the discussion for the 500 freestyle.

“Having lost Amy, who was someone that could do it meet after meet and hold that mental toughness, … that’s going to hurt a little bit,” O’Brien said. “Hannah can swim it, and Ingrid can swim it as well, but she’s also a talented sprinter. We’ll be rotating that position (in the 500 free).”

The Wingers also look to replace their top diver from last year in Jess Kolsky. With 11 divers in Red Wing’s lineup and a new dives coach, O’Brien has plenty to choose from on the board.

“We got Allison Byrne coming up, and Lydia Miller is also returning and is a captain this year,” O’Brien said. “They’re going to battle it out for that top diver on the team.”

Last year, injuries hampered the Wingers during the early portion of the season. Red Wing has put an emphasis in dry-land training during the first two weeks of practice.

“We’re being careful with what we’re doing in the pool and in outside training,” O’Brien said. “The girls need the resistance training and they need the impact training for when they get into the pool.”

With an improved group of youngsters and with the Section 1A meet being moved to a faster pool at the Rochester Rec Center, O’Brien’s goal is to double up on Red Wing’s two state participants from 2012.

“It would sure be nice to send three or four to state,” O’Brien said. “We got the potential to do it. We want to send a good, strong squad to sections as well.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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