Six athletes from the STMA girls swim team earned their place at the 2019 Minnesota State High School Swim and Dive Championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center through their top performances at the Section 8AA competition last weekend.
STMA State Competitors
The relay swimmers include: Kelsey Kocon, Hailey Riley, Maggie Lombardi, and Faye Roberts competing in the 200 Medley Relay, and Kocon, Lombardi, Roberts and Lily VanHeel in the 400 Freestyle Relay.
Individual participants include Lombardi in the 100 Fly, and VanHeel and Kocon in the 100 Backstroke. Senior Bella Baldwin rounds out the STMA State participants in the diving competition.
“The STMA Girls Swim & Dive team continued its history of success, finishing 2nd in the section and sending a variety of individuals and relay teams to state,” Activities Director Keith Cornell said. “The team has lost some excellent swimmers to graduation the last few years, but returning upperclassmen and younger swimmers alike stepped up to take their place.”
Head Coach Sarah Salo said she thought this year would be more of a rebuilding year than it turned out to be.
“We lost a state champion and another state athlete last year, but we still have some top talent that will perform really well at state,” she said. “We also gained some fast 7th grade swimmers this year that filled in gaps really nicely.”
The seventh graders she mentioned include VanHeel and Riley, and they are joined by more seasoned teammates including Kocon, who is competing at State for the fifth time, Roberts and Lombardi, who are making their third State appearances, and Baldwin, competing in the State Diving competition for the second year.
Salo said the girls swim team has seen more lifetime bests this season than any other, and she credits part of that to the tougher competition of the Lake Conference.
“We don’t win as many meets in the Lake Conference, but I would say our performance as a team has surpassed where we’ve been in years past,” she said.
She also said she feels the switch has made the girls more prepared for their season’s biggest meets, such as sections and state.
“I think we’ve really swam up to our competition this year,” she said.
Salo said this group of state participants are really hard workers who are dedicated and passionate about the sport.
“They know where they want to go, and they’ve put in a lot of work to get there,” she said. “They also have a lot of fun while working so hard.”
State prelims took place yesterday, and finals for both swimming and diving take place on today.
She said the more seasoned competitors know what it takes to make it back for the finals on Friday, and that they’ll serve as great role models to the group’s two younger swimmers.
“They’ll give everything they have,” she said. “I’m so excited to watch these girls compete and to see their hard work and perseverance pay off.”