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Visitation repeats as 1A swim champ with depth, not champions

By Joel Rippel, Star Tribune, 11/16/18, 5:37PM CST


For the second consecutive year, the Mendota Heights school claimed the state championship without winning any events but the Blazers earned points in all 12.

Maria Mattaini of Visitation, shown here swimming in the 100 freestyle in the 2017 state meet, helped the deep and balanced Blazers win a state title again on Friday with a runnerup finish in the 500 freestyle. Star Tribune file photo by David Joles.

For the second consecutive year, Visitation used its overall depth to outlast Hutchinson for the girls Class 1A state swimming and diving title.

And, for the second consecutive year, the Blazers didn’t have an individual champion or win a relay as they earned their sixth consecutive (10th overall) state title. The Blazers finished with 319.5 points. Hutchinson, which had two individual champions and won two relays, was second with 272 points.

Visitation got runnerup finishes by its 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays, and Kali Fischer (200 IM) and Maria Mattaini (500 freestyle). The Blazers scored points in all 12 events.

“We got great swims today,” Visitation coach Nate Linscheid said after the meet on Friday at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the University of Minnesota. “I think that’s a testament to the quality of swimming in Class A. Our numbers obviously help, but the times in the (preliminaries) yesterday and today really pushed us.”

Underclassmen stand out

Benilde-St. Margaret’s sophomore Taylor Williams, Breck freshman Yvonne Jia and Hutchinson freshmen Grace Hanson and Hailey Farrell earned state titles.

Williams defended her state title in the 200 freestyle, edging Hutchinson’s Lexi Kucera and Farrell. She also won the 100 freestyle, finishing ahead of Hanson and Kucera.

“Going into the meet, I justed wanted to do my best time,” Williams said. “If that meant winning or finishing 10th. Winning a state title is great, but I was just trying to do my best.”

Jia, in her first state meet, won the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly. She also swam a leg on Breck’s winning 200 medley relay to help the Mustangs to a strong third-place showing with 234 points.

“I have the best teammates,” Jia said. “I joined the team two weeks late and my teammates have really helped me and encouraged me. It was so fun to have the opportunity to swim at the state meet.”

Hanson defended her state title in the 50 freestyle, finished second in the 100 freestyle and swam a leg on the Tigers’ winning 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.

“I have to give all the credit to my teammates and my competitors,” Hanson said. “They really push me. I’m glad I could help my teammates.”

Farrell, the 500 freestyle runnerup as a seventh- and eighth-grader, won the 500 freestyle and finished second in the 200 freestyle and swam a leg on the Tigers’ 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.

Hanson, Farrell, Kucera and Mikayla Witte combined to win the 400 freestyle relay in a Class 1A record time of 3:27.64.

New champ in diving

Fridley senior Ellie Gunderson won the Class 1A diving title with a score of 381.65. Gunderson was fifth last year. Two-time defending champion Saylor Hawkins of Breck was fourth with a 364.10.

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