After a true team section title and a Big 9 Conference crown, the Northfield girls swimming and diving team will attempt to add to this fall’s championship collection with a Section 1AA trophy.
The section meet starts Wednesday with the swimming preliminaries at the Rochester Recreation Center, continues Thursday with the diving preliminaries at Rochester John Marshall High School and concludes Friday with the swimming and diving finals back at the Rec Center. All start times are 6 p.m.
“The psych sheet is out and I did a preliminary scoring of the meet and there’s about four teams vying for a win here,” Northfield coach Chris Morgan said. “We’re one of them, but there’s 30 points between us, though, on about a 400-point scale, so it’s not a very wide berth.”
Two of the three teams, Farmington and Rochester Century, were nipping at Northfield’s heels at the true team section meet, while Hastings has soared into the title hunt on the strength of a handful of swimmers seeded first in various events.
Northfield has won three straight section titles, and while those came in the small-school Section 1A, the same, speedy crop of seniors is set to chase the hardware all the same. Rochester Century edged Farmington and Lakeville North for the Section 1AA crown a year ago.
“Being double-A, it’s a whole new set of teams this time,” Morgan said. “Last year we won sections going away, it wasn’t close. This year it’s going to be very close. It’ll be exciting, and maybe a little over-exciting for my taste.”
Of course, a team title is far from the only objective of the week, with Friday serving as the gateway to qualify individuals for the Class AA state championships next week at the University of Minnesota.
In addition to the group of 13 seniors — Alice Zhang, Ava O’Hara-Brantner, Caroline Peterson, Chloe Mellgren, Christina Narveson, Ella Kelm, Ella Palmquist, Hannah Ringlien, Madelyn Meyer, Mia Mollenhauer, Samantha Sundby, Signe Hauck and Tatum Hauck — Morgan also tabbed junior Zibby Hanifl, sophomore Paige Steenblock, sophomore Anna Scheglowski, sophomore Liv Fossum and freshman Ananda Myint as non-seniors with opportunities to qualify individually for state.
Before that, though, is the task of progressing as many swimmers from Wednesday’s swimming preliminaries and Thursday’s diving preliminaries into Friday’s finals. For the swimming events, the top eight qualifiers will compete in the championship finals and secure a top-eight overall finish, while the next eight qualifiers will swim in the consolation finals, where there are still plenty of team points to be won.
“We all need to swim well, and we need to do it on Wednesday to have a chance as a team,” Morgan said, “so the goal really is to go in and swim well enough in prelims to get as many of our kids back as we can in the top eight, as many as we can into the bottom eight for scoring. If we’re set up well, Friday should go well enough for us as a team, so we can focus on qualifying (individuals) for state.”
If all goes to plan Wednesday with the swimmers and Thursday with the divers, the Gators should stake themselves to a large lead by the end of the 200-yard freestyle relay, in which they’re seeded first and concludes a long run of events that they’re loaded with potential point scorers.
Then comes the 100 backstroke, which Rochester Century is loaded in, and the 100 breaststroke, which Farmington is set to claim a load of points from, before the 400 freestyle relay closes the meet.
At the true team section meet, Northfield took first place and claimed the title with a strong 400 freestyle relay.
“Then it’ll probably come down to the 400 again,” Morgan said. “Hastings has enough of the top seeds where they’re relevant points-wise. They have a different meet (than us). They have to keep winning to be in the same boat. Farmington, Century and us are going to do it with numbers. Hastings is going to do it with a couple of really quick kids.”