The Section 8AA Championships in girls’ swimming again came down to a battle between two schools – St. Michael-Albertville and Maple Grove – and the Knights continued its recent tradition of getting the better of the Crimson, adding another trophy to this year’s already impressive haul.
STMA captured the Section Championship at St. Cloud Tech last weekend, and will send a host of swimmers to the Class AA Meet this weekend at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, aiming for its best finish as a school in the state pool with two relays and a handful of individuals performing at the big meet.
STMA was led by seniors Maddy Gallagher and Jenna Kocon, two swimmers who have been essential into the team’s transition under head coach Sarah Salo, who is in her second year.
Gallagher, for her part, has been a mainstay on the 200-yard freestyle relay team, a foursome that helped propel the Knights to the Section Championship and an undefeated season in the pool, earning the team another Mississippi 8 Championship. The Knights also captured the 8AA True Team championship, which isn’t a sanctioned meet by the MSHSL but is used by teams around the state to give teams the chance to experience section competition. Gallagher is joined by Jordyn Schnell, Ashton Hobza and Emma Lezer on that relay team and all four will head to state to compete in the event.
Back to last weekend’s MSHSL Section 8AA meet, the 200-yard freestyle relay wasn’t the only team effort for the Knights. The 200-yard medley relay, which featured Kocon, her sister Kelsey Kocon, Lezer and Schnell also took top billing in their race, earning STMA’s girls big points for the weekend.
In individual events, the team’s best hope for a state medal probably lies with Lezer, who set a Section 8AA record with her swim in the 100-yard breastroke, and is the pool record holder in the 100-yard butterfly after her performance at St. Cloud Tech last weekend. Lezer, a sophomore, has experience at the state meet, but is emerging as a state favorite in those two events, which are her specialty.
Kelsey Kocon also took a gold medal in the section meet, as the freshman took first in the 100-yard backstroke and was second in the 200-yard individual medley. She’ll compete at state in both of those events.
Hobza earned a trip to state in individuals as well, as she’ll enjoy silver in the 200-yard freestyle. She’s hoping to make the final heat in that big event, which would put her on the podium as a sophomore.
Here’s a look at the complete STMA Section 8AA team:
Bella Baldwin – Diver (9)
Grace Braegelman – 100 Breast (11)
Maddie Gagnon – Diver (9)
Maddie Gallagher – 200 Free, 100 Free (12)
Maddie Gondreau – 100 Fly, 500 Free (11)
Mary Heil – 200 Free, 100 Back (9)
Ashton Hobza – 200 Free, 500 Free (10)
Maddie Jurkovski – 100 Breast (11)
Jenna Kocon – 200 IM, 100 Fly (12)
Kelsey Kocon – 200 IM, 100 Back (9)
Nicole Kyono – Diver (10)
Emma Lezer – 100 Fly, 100 Breast (10)
Olivia Lock – Diver (12)
Maggie Lombardi – 500 Free (7)
Lucy Miller – 100 Free, 100 Back (9)
Julia Pieper –100 Breast (11)
Kristen Pieper – 50 Free, 100 Fly (11)
Taylor Ripplinger – 200 IM, 100 Free (9)
Faye Roberts – 200 IM, 500 Free (8)
Lilly Roberts – 200 Free (11)
Indigo Rowland – 50 Free (9)
Jordyn Schnell – 50 Free, 100 Free (11)
Ava Stende – 100 Back (11)
Hannah VanHoorik – 50 Free (11)