2021 Hutchinson girls swimming and diving team

Members of the Hutchinson girls swimming and diving team are, from left, front row, Jenna Strei, Kenra Kern, Riley Borka, Hailey Farrell, Grace Hanson, Jaiden Mezera, Ellie Scheidt and Greta Kuttner; middle row, Izabelle Schwartz, Morgan Reck, Hattie Richie, Brynn Mathwig, Ellie Lien-Wilke, Madison Witte, Madilyn Gehrke, Madeline Hoffman, Kylie Peavy and Lanie Skolberg; back row, Lucy Jennissen, Sophia Collett, Aubree Schwanz, Nora Mach, Hannah Krippner, Kelsey Gillman, Ava Dobratz and Eliana Kruse. Not pictured are Kasidy Brecht and Sydney Redmann.

First-place finishes won’t be a problem for the Hutchinson girls swimming and diving team this year. With three state champs and six state-qualifiers returning, Hutchinson will have the fastest swimmers in most events, no matter who they face.

But if Hutchinson hopes to win meets and even take a shot at reclaiming the Section 3A title, they’ll need more than a handful of fast swimmers. They’ll need the next generation of Tigersharks to step up and start making names for themselves.

“Our strength is the top-end power we have,” said head coach Rory Fairbanks, who is in his 22nd year at the helm of the girls team. “We have six girls with state-meet experience. We will need to develop better team depth.”

Leading the charge for Hutch are its five senior captains, Riley Borka, Kassidy Brecht, Hailey Farrell, Grace Hanson and Jaiden Mezera. Along with junior Mikayla Witte and sophomore Madilyn Gehrke, they make up the bulk of the ’Sharks’ returning experience. Between them they have dozens of conference and section titles, not to mention 14 state championships.

After the returning core, coach Fairbanks said the rest of the lineup is up for grabs as young swimmers compete for spots on varsity.

The Hutchinson Invitational this past weekend was the team’s first meet of the season, and it gave the Tigersharks a good look at who might provide that needed depth. Several girls showed they are moving in the right direction. Swimmers and divers such as Ellie Scheidt, Izabelle Schwartz, Morgan Reck, Sydney Redmann, Ellie Lien-Wilke and Sophia Collett look poised to fill in the important role of fifth-, sixth-, seventh-place finishers and so on who add to the team’s scores

“We are looking at improving every day and see what happens at the end of the season,” Fairbanks said about the team’s goals this year. “We are taking it one day at a time and hoping for the best.”

One thing that will look different this year is the Wright County Conference. Longtime rivals Orono, Waconia and New Prague have moved out, which means fewer dual meets on the schedule for the ’Sharks. But the one team Hutchinson will have to look out for most is still there — Delano.

For the first time since 2006 last year, the Tigersharks did not win the section championship. Delano snapped Hutch’s 13-year streak of titles. There was no WCC Championship meet last year due to COVID-19, but in 2019 Hutch was at 12 straight conference titles. Delano is likely the team to beat in both the section and the conference, and the two will get their first look at each other in their dual at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, in Hutchinson.

“We need to stay focused every day and improve as much as possible,” Fairbanks said was the key to Hutch’s success this year. “We also have to stay healthy throughout the season.”