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Girls Swimming: Red Wing 200 medley relay to consolation finals

Red Wing's Grace O'Brien goes through the backstroke portion of the 200-yard medley relay in the Class 1A state prelims Thursday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 3
Red Wing's Sammy Kriese and the rest of the Wingers' 200-yard medley relay team qualified for the consolation finals with a 14th-place time of 1:54.01 during Thursday's Class 1A prelims. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 3
Red Wing's Cecelia De Jong races down the lane during the 100-yard butterfly during the Class 1A prelims Thursday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. De Jong placed 19th with a time of 1:01.49. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)3 / 3

MINNEAPOLIS – Safe but fast.

Trying to make the swim season last one day longer, that was the philosophy for the Red Wing girls' 200-yard medley relay in the Class 1A state prelims on Thursday as they hoped to improve from the 17th seed to a spot in the finals.

“We wanted to finish strong and have super-safe starts,” said Wingers senior Claire King. “We had super-safe starts but that's OK just as long as we got into finals.”

The strategy paid off for the Red Wing foursome of Grace O'Brien, Sammy Kriese, Cecelia De Jong and King as they finished 14th in the prelims with a time of 1 minute, 54.01 seconds, putting the Wingers into the consolation finals.

“They raced really well, just living in the moment at the state meet with all the anticipation and excitement and energy,” said Red Wing head coach Kevin O'Brien. “They held their own and moved up a few spots.”

Competing as the Wingers' only 200 medley relay, the foursome wanted to keep things consistent like they did all season. And Grace's goal was to make sure she got the team off to a strong start in the backstroke.

“I wasn't too nervous,” Grace said. “I was feeling prepared because we all put in all the effort and the work all season.”

After Grace hit the wall in 29.24, Kriese followed in the breaststroke with a time of 32.42.

“It's always nerve-wracking to be at the beginning or the end of the relay so you have to think more about time than place,” Kriese said. “If you do well as a team, it's more important than placing.”

In the last two legs, De Jong and King were able to speed up the pace in the butterfly and freestyle. De Jong finished in 26.67 while King anchored the relay at 25.68.

“The key was really being focused and watching the person's stroke in front of you,” King said. “Not too late (off the block), but not too early.”

De Jong added, “It was really awesome because our goal was just to make it into finals and we ended up getting 14th and moving up three places. It was really cool and really fun.”

The top seed in the consolation finals is the team from Delano with a time of 1:50.98. Orono will be the top seed in the championship final after a prelim time of 1:47.54.

“It was par for the course,” Kevin said. “We knew they were our main state shot and they've been together all year. They know each other's strokes, they timed everything out. They've practiced and raced together.”

De Jong had another chance to compete in the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center water as she competed in the 100 butterfly. De Jong finished in 19th place in 1:01.49, keeping her out of the finals. The final time for the consolation finals was set by Blake's Angelina Hartley, who finished in 1:00.29. The top prelim time came from Blake's Madison Potter, who finished in 55.93.

De Jong's goal was another finals trip. But as an eighth-grader, she kept her perspective, knowing she'll likely have a few more cracks at state.

“Hopefully next year I'll be able to make it into finals,” De Jong said. “It was just fun for the first time and hopefully in the years to come I can keep improving.”

Kevin added, “As an eighth-grader, it was a good experience. We're glad she could be here because she'll get here for years to come. To get 19th, it's a little bit of a bummer but it was our goal to get here. She gets to see what finals are like with the medley relay.”

The Class 1A state championship meet resumes at noon Friday back at the University of Minnesota.

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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