Going into the Section 3A Swimming and Diving Championship, the Hutchinson Tigersharks aren’t short on confidence for how they expect to perform.
The team will travel to Willmar at 5 p.m. Thursday for the prelims, followed by the finals at 1 p.m. Saturday. When it returns, it expects to bring back its 13th straight section championship trophy.
“Us girls only know winning this meet,” senior Ainsela Jensen said. “So if we lost, I think it would be very devastating.”
Head coach Rory Fairbanks believes that this section championship will be one of the closer one’s in the past 13 years. The unpredictability of it comes down to how well swimmers respond to their tapers. Not just Hutchinson, but other teams such as Delano and Mound Westonka.
“It’s who gets what kids into the consolations or the finals,” Fairbanks said. “That’s going to dictate 90 percent of the finals right there.”
“We know that teams are going to be working harder to come after us,” Lexi Kucera said. “We have to continue to work harder to maintain the streak.”
Along with the section title, the meet will determine who qualifies for what events at the state championship. To qualify, swimmers must either finish in the top two of their event or beat the state cut time. The top four divers also qualify.
The ’Sharks are expecting to send anywhere from 13 to 23 entries to state, and Fairbanks said they could have two swimmers or more in every race if things go well at sections.
Based on their section seed times, that goal is right on track. Hutchinson has the fastest seeded teams in each relay event, plus the top times in six individual events. Along with that, there were many more swimmers within striking distance of the state cut times.
Barring any mistakes, a handful of swimmers should be locks to qualify for state. Grace Hanson and Hailey Farrell look to return to state in the 50 and 500 freestyle, respectively, to defend their state titles in those events. Hanson is also the top seed in the 100 freestyle, while Farrell is the top seed in the 200 individual medley.
Lexi Kucera is the top seed in the 200 freestyle by more than five seconds, and in the butterfly she is the second seed and trails the leader by 0.13 seconds. Hutch’s other top seed is Madilyn Gehrke in the breaststroke, and Mikayla Witte is the No. 3 seed in the backstroke but is under the state cut.
Thursday’s prelims will be all about moving swimmers into the consolation or finals heat, and on Saturday the Tigersharks hope to peak, earning as many state qualifying times as they can while locking up another section title.
Section 3A seed times
200 medley relay — Hutchinson A 1:51.26
200 freestyle — 1. Lexi Kucera 1:53.43; 5. Madison Witte 2:00.79; 6. Mikayla Witte 2:02.20; 29. Morgan Reck 2:17.54
200 IM — 1. Hailey Farrell 2:08.28; 5. Jaiden Mezeera 2:18.65; 8. Clara Dobratz 2:21.92; 17. Megan Lipke 2:32.17
50 freestyle — 1. Grace Hanson 23.35; 7. Ainslea Jensen 25.81; 13. Ashley Hanson 26.50; 14. Riley Borka 26.74
100 butterfly — 2. Lexi Kucera 57.37; 6. Madison Witte 1:00.76; 13. Jaiden Mezera 1:03.42; 15. Ainslea Jensen 1:04.72
100 freestyle — 1. Grace Hanson 51.77; 5. Madilyn Gehrke 56.47; 18. Ashley Hanson 58.78; 33. Ellie Wilke-Lien 1:03.61
500 freestyle — 1. Hailey Farrell 5:05.83; 3. Kasidy Brecht 5:29.61; 14. Annie Gores 5:46.59; 28. Ava Dobratz 6:19.39
200 freestyle relay — 1. Hutchinson A 1:40.65
100 backstroke — 3. Mikayla Witte 1:00.26; 5. Kasidy Brecht 1:01.72; 7. Annie Gores 1:04.00; 35. Madeline Hoffman 1:17.85
100 breaststroke — 1. Madilyn Gehrke 1:09.75; 9. Clara Dobratz 1:13.72; 9. Megan Lipke 1:15.91; 28. Macy Stuber 1:21.15
400 freestyle relay — 1. Hutchinson A 3:41.18