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Girls Swimming: Familiar cast returns to state

Grace O'Brien, Sammy Kriese and Cecelia De Jong are ready for round two of state.

As three-fourths of the state 200-yard medley relay team, the Wingers just wanted a state time in order to get to the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

When the 200 medley relay returns to the state pool for Friday's Class A prelims, the expectation is much higher.

"This year we want to place higher at state than we did last year," De Jong said.

At last year's meet, the Red Wing relay placed 15th in 1 minute, 55.16 seconds.

The expectation now?

"Our main goal is to get the school record, around 1:51," De Jong said. "We're three- or four-tenths off, so that's a little extra (motivation) for us."

The first three legs of the relay were set before the season with O'Brien in the backstroke, Kriese in the breaststroke and De Jong in the butterfly. Freestyle was the question mark with Claire King graduating from last year's team.

The team settled on eighth-grader Teegan Beyers. But Beyers was far from a mystery to her relay teammates.

"It was actually really easy (to transition) because we swam with Teegan during club, too," Kriese said. "We've been swimming together since we were really young."

And with a new head coach in Mikayla Beuch that specialized as a sprinter at Wisconsin-La Crosse, Beyers got some specialized coaching on the matter.

"She's taught me that I need to have really fast arm tempo and I have to have a fast stroke," Beyers said. "She teaches me some of her details she used when she was a swimmer."

Beuch added, "The big thing was teaching her how to race like a sprinter. She's got natural talent and now it's understanding how to use that in sprinting mode. Everything has to be fast. Our brains, our arms, our legs, our motions, everything has to be sped up times two."

With Beyers as the new piece, the Winger foursome is ready for their second chance. O'Brien, Kriese, De Jong and Beyers enter state as the 13th seed with a time of 1:52.24.

"The second time around for everything is the best. It's easier," O'Brien said. "You know what's going to happen and you feel more prepared going into it."

The state meet will also be a second go-around for De Jong as an individual as she'll compete in the 100 butterfly. A year ago, De Jong placed 19th at 1:01.49.

Now, she enters state as the seventh seed with a time of 58.52.

"I wanted to break a minute really badly," De Jong said. "We implemented dry land (training) this year, which has made us stronger this year. This year, I had a chance to be a section or conference champion where last year, I wasn't as close."

"Cecelia has dropped a tremendous amount of time," Beuch said. "And I know she can get faster as long as she keeps her head in her race and not worrying about the other swimmers in the race."

About a second in either direction can put De Jong higher on the podium or completely out of championship contention. After keeping up with the No. 2 seed, Faribault's Gesa Wilden, in the section meet, De Jong hopes she can keep trending higher.

"I know I can go with the fast people again because I stayed with (Wilden) for most of the section finals," De Jong said. "If I race like that, I can definitely make it to finals, get top eight and improve upon my seeding."

The Class A state championship begins with diving prelims Thursday, swimming prelims Friday and the championship meet Saturday. All three days begin at noon.