The strong group of upperclassmen should provide a solid foundation for the Menomonie girls swim and dive team this season.
Second-year coach Erin Liljedahl will have plenty of quality sprint swimmers with high levels of competition to fill openings in distance events.
Menomonie brings back three from its 400-yard freestyle relay team that was Big Rivers Conference honorable mention last season. Junior Melody Greenwood, junior Kate Westphal and senior Regan Smith will again look to lead for the Mustangs this season.
Menomonie will have to find a way to replace the production from departed senior Mille Lausen who was the final member of the all-conference relay team. Lausen was first team all-conference in both the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. She also took second in the 500 freestyle and fifth in the 200 freestyle at the Division 2 state meet.
Liljedahl expects the team to once again have quality 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams. There will be plenty of competition for the four spots in each relay and Liljedahl said the two relays provide the Mustangs their best chance to get a team to the state meet.
“We only swim four but we have six to seven that have fast enough times that depending on the week we’re going to be able to play with and put together our fastest relay there,” Liljedahl said of the relay teams.
Greenwood will also place a critical role for Menomonie with her diving. Greenwood placed 11th at the state meet last season.
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“We definitely have a couple standouts here that we’re pretty excited about,” Liljedahl said.
At the team’s first event at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln on Aug. 22 Greenwood placed third overall. Teammate sophomore Mia Smith was even better coming in second in the dive.
Kinsey Singerhouse also returns after a good freshman year. She found her strength in the 100 butterfly last year and Liljedahl said she has shown a lot of improvement during the offseason.
With two invitationals out of the way this season Menomonie is off until Sept. 12 when the Mustangs travel to Eau Claire Memorial for the first Big Rivers Conference dual of the year. A week later Menomonie hosts Chippewa Falls as the home conference dual slate also includes matchups with Eau Claire North (Oct. 3) and Rice Lake (Oct. 22). Early on the Mustangs have been focusing on cleaning up some of the fundamentals. Liljedahl hopes strong work on turns and correct form on strokes early in the season will pay dividends later in the season once swimmers build up their endurance.
“I’m not too worried about times but I’d like to see them doing the strokes right, doing the turns right, doing the starts right so that those times can come down as the season goes and they get into better shape,” Liljedahl said.
For those that don’t have as much varsity experience the early portion of the schedule provides the opportunity to showcase what they are capable of and how they might fit into roles on the varsity lineup. While Liljedahl has a strong veteran presence in some events how much success the team can have will be dependent on how younger swimmers can develop.
“We’re really looking during these meets to see who can step in take over some of those places of surprise us with a fast time,” Liljedahl said. “Some of these kids we’ve never seen swim so it’s going to be exciting to see what they can kind of pull out as far as speed.”