Several swimmers and divers return, with strong newcomers to join them, as the Blaine and Spring Lake Park girls swimming and diving teams vie to build upon strong seasons last fall.
Blaine reached true team state, won the Section 7AA championship and finished 11th at the Class AA state meet a year ago.
Although a pair of top state placers depart from that roster, the Bengals open with plenty of depth and lineup flexibility, traits that should carry them far in dual meets.
“I think versatility is our No. 1 strength right now,” Blaine head coach Kristen Luedtke said. “My top four training lanes can swim a variety of events, which gives me the flexibility to write a lineup based on who we are competing against that week. That is a gift. Having strong divers who have stepped up in the past allows our team to be well-rounded. While it’s hard to lose athletes like Isabelle Stadden and Abigail Egolf-Jensen, this team has really stepped up to fill those voids.
“Alyssa Jensen is now our top diver and arguably one of the best in our conference. Between her and Ellie Stauffacher, we will still have a strong presence in diving. From a swimming perspective, captain Sammi Friedrich, Sarah Knox, Allie Schrank and Emma Wilson are all familiar faces at the state meet and will continue to be this year.”
If the group is able to work hard and progress over the next two months, the Bengals expect to be a force once again come postseason time.
“I have a young team and a number of those young athletes swam and dove over the summer, so while our team does look different, they will remain competitive,” Luedtke said. “My expectations are always giving 100 percent effort, and the results will take care of themselves. It is tough coming off of such a high season, but we have exceeded expectations in the past. If the girls are giving 100 percent, my goal is for you to see us being competitive at the state meet in November.”
Spring Lake Park
Spring Lake Park showed off its all-around depth a year ago as well, placing fifth in Section 5AA in the true team and season-end meets. The Panthers bring most of that talent back, with hopes of moving some of those top swimmers up even further in meets.
“We will be pretty deep in most events this season, but we will be looking for some firepower up front,” Spring Lake Park head coach Greg Kugler said. “We will rely on our younger swimmers to step into those fast leadership roles.”
Key returners from a year ago for the Panthers include Brianna King (2017 section placer in the 50 free and 100 back), Kaitlin Rose (section placer in the 200 and 500 free), Carly Lindquist (section placer in the 100 fly and 100 back) and Morgan Woodford (section placer in the 200 IM and 100 free).
“Rose should be a swimmer who could qualify for the state meet this season,” Kugler said. “Her time this summer broke our school record in the 500 free, so she should be tough.
“(We’re) looking to be competitive this season in a very tough NWSC and hoping to finish in the top half of both the NWSC as well as the Section 5AA meet.”