Mounds View sophomore Maya Loewen swam the breaststroke in practice during the first week of October. The Mustangs are ranked seventh in the latest Class 2A coaches poll. Photo by Joel Koyama • email@example.com
Early last week, Mounds View swimming and diving coach Steve Webb gathered his girls on the pool deck for a special announcement.
The Mustangs had broken into in the Class 2A coaches poll, earning the No. 7 spot.
"Everybody's faces lit up and we started clapping," sophomore Sara Nelson said. "We all got super excited about it."
Webb felt the distinction was overdue but admitted the Mustangs' strengths are not individual standouts. None of his swimmers has achieved honor roll status thus far by posting one of the state's best times. Only diver Kylie Kuether and one relay team hold that distinction.
"We're a team of six or seven girls who are really good and another 10 who are on the verge," Webb said. "We have no weaknesses other than we have no real stars."
You might not know the swimmers but you can't deny their results. Mounds View entered this week with a 5-1 dual meet record, losing only to swimming power Stillwater. Along the way, several swimmers have pushed themselves past or near state qualifying times.
Surpass those times were freshman Mclaren Curphy in the 100-yard backstroke and sophomore Maya Loewen in the 100 breaststroke. Closing fast are junior Maggie LaMere (200 individual medley) and Nelson (50 free). Nelson crossed her fingers on both hands while expressing hopes for making the cut.
Webb said all four Mustangs' relays are close to the state cuts as well, with the 200 medley relay off by less than a second. The relay represented Mounds View's lone honor roll mention last week. The Mustangs went to state in that event the past two seasons.
"We're always competing within the team for relay spots and records," Loewen said. "It's a lot of fun because there are a lot of faster girls in the program."
Younger swimmers such as Loewen and Curphy helped inject talent and tenacity into the program. Last week, Curphy's time of 1 minute, 1.9 seconds broke the East Ridge pool record in the 100 backstroke.
"It's definitely cool because a couple years ago I never saw myself being up this high," Curphy said. "My times weren't really with the rest of my peer group. But in seventh grade I dropped about nine seconds in the 100 backstroke. I had a coach who trained me harder than I had trained in my entire life."
Success in the pool and corresponding attention from voters are fueling bigger dreams.
"It definitely makes you more excited for your meets," Loewen said. "You have higher expectations for yourself to go faster because you know you're ranked."
Mounds View competes in the Class 2A, Section 5 True Team meet on Saturday. The Mustangs qualified for the state meet as a wild card last season. The state meet is Oct. 20 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
The True Team section and state meets are unique because all 84 entrants on each team count toward the team score. By comparison, the Minnesota State High School League state meets in November can be won by a handful of top-end swimmers.
The format suits the team-based Mustangs. But LaMere, her program's lone individual entrant in the high school league state meet last November, expects company this time around.
"I think we can do well at both meets," LaMere said. "I think we will have a lot more girls going."
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574