The hardest week of the season is over.
That means it’s time for the postseason.
After building up for entire season, the Menomonie girls swim team is ready. On Saturday the Mustangs will be in the pool for a Division 2 sectional in Wisconsin Rapids. Diving competition begins Friday evening.
Despite getting after it in practice last week, many of the swimmers for Menomonie still matched their season’s best results at the Big Rivers Conference Championships last week, and that was encouraging for Menomonie coach Erin Liljedahl.
“Being able to see that they can hold (time) that even after the hardest week of their entire season is a really big accomplishment,” Liljedahl said.
Menomonie has eight entries seeded in the top 10 at sectionals as the Mustangs will send a group of 11 down for the event. Kinsey Singerhouse has the fifth seed in the 200-yard individual medley along with being seeded 11th in the 100 backstroke.
Melody Greenwood is seeded fifth in the 50 freestyle. Greenwood qualified for the state meet in 2017 in the 50 freestyle and also advanced to state last year in diving, where she placed 11th.
“I think every year at sectionals I come in with the same goal — looking to go to state as I did in my freshman and sophomore years — but I also aim to get more of the team to state for relays,” Greenwood said.
Molly Smith enters sectionals seeded sixth in the 100 breaststroke and 10th in the 500 freestyle. The 200 medley relay is seeded eighth and the 200 freestyle relay ninth. Also seeded 10th is Kate Westphal in the 100 butterfly and the 400 freestyle relay team.
“I think they all have trained well this season, and trained well offseason as well, and have the potential to hit personal best times by a lot at this meet,” Liljedahl said.
Liljedahl said she’s optimistic Greenwood, Singerhouse and Molly Smith can outdo their seed and challenge swimmers who enter with faster times. Ultimately Liljedahl is looking for each member of the team to match their seed time or push themselves to placing higher.
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“I’d like see them hit where they’re seeded,” Liljedahl said. “If they’re seeded five, I’d love to see them placing fifth or above and really reaching to hold on to that and beat those other girls that are (seeded) above them or next to the them.”
Going against other Big Rivers Conference schools throughout the season can be a beneficial challenge. With four of the seven schools competing at the Division 1 level, Menomonie is able to battle with teams it won’t face at sectionals. Fellow Big Rivers teams Rice Lake and River Falls will also be at the sectional in Wisconsin Rapids. When the Mustangs get to sectionals they hope the top competition they’ve faced all year can give them an edge.
“When our girls are keeping up with them and being pushed to keep up with them, I think that motivates us to go faster so then when we get to our Division 2 (sectional) we can be the leaders or we can kind of push that Division 2 to become faster,” Liljedahl said.
Senior Regan Smith said her favorite part of the high school swim career has been being part of a team. Although she is scheduled for two individual events (50 and 100 freestyle), Smith is hoping its her race with teammates is the one that can earn a trip to state. This way she can continue to practice and race one more time with her teammates.
Senior Ashley Lewis will be swimming individually in 100 breaststroke and 200 freestyle and Liljedahl said Lewis has made great stride this season and throughout her career.
“This will be her third year with me and I’ve never seen her drop time like she’s dropped. I’ve never seen her lead like she led,” Liljedahl said of Lewis. “She’s taken every critique about her stroke and how to make it more aggressive and really followed through and done that.”
For Lewis it’s all about performing her best in what could be the final meet of career — one that she said went by too quickly. A more relaxed week of practice after a taxing week could give Lewis and her teammates the much needed energy to be at the top of their game.
“This week is our taper, so it’s still a bit of yardage but a lot more time in between to rest, so we’re going to be swimming really fast on Saturday,” Lewis said.
The team has built a positive team culture that Liljedahl is especially proud of and that has been noticeable to opposing teams. Training all year for this point of the season, Liljadahl is optimistic.
“I think we have the potential in swim and in dive to send some people to state and I’m excited to see if thy can bring that home for us,” Liljedahl said.