From left to right, Amelia Monroe, Siri Narveson, Paige Steenblock and Anna Scheglowski are the four captains for this year’s Northfield girls swimming and diving team. The Gators feature a roster bursting with 57 athletes this fall. (Tom Nelson/southernminn.com)

The COVID-19 pandemic played havoc during the 2020 season, but the 2021 Northfield girls swimming and diving team is looking forward to a return to normal with a large and talented squad under the direction of coach Chris Morgan.

“Our biggest strength is our depth,” Morgan said. “We do have a couple of kids who we will look to podium at the state meet, but that is not why were going to win. We are going to win because we keep consistently coming in those top five scoring spots.

“We have a roster of 57. We are big and we have depth, which is a huge asset…and the team’s future is extremely bright because you can look at every single year and see a lot of success up and coming.”

The Gators will look to built on the success they have enjoyed in recent seasons, which includes a 2019 Big 9 Conference championship along with a Section 1AA team title in 2019 and Section 1A crowns in 2016, 2017 and 2018. This will mark the third season as a AA team, and last year Northfield placed third at the section meet during the COVID abbreviated season that featured just the section meet.

“So this year, we have already had one meet where we were racing, and what I am probably most excited about this year is that we are back to racing. That (racing) in itself is a huge skill, which I think this team is extremely good at,” Morgan said. “So to have that pulse check once a week at meets to see where we are, I think, is really vital to how we will finish this season.”

Veteran skill and leadership is always critical to any team’s success, and Morgan believes his 2021 squad will benefit from a talented senior class.

The Gators will be led in the pool this fall by senior captains Amelia Monroe, Siri Narveson, Anna Scheglowski and Paige Steenblock.

“I think our leadership is good,” Morgan said. “All four captains bring their own flavor. We also have a pretty healthy sized senior class and all of those seniors will score points. We just have a tremendous volume of kids who are going to bring it.”

Monroe, who swims at the 100-yard butterfly and 500 freestyle, added, “As a team, we have done really well in past years and I am hoping we can come out strong, stay strong and win section championships. We are looking really good and we are expecting to have the full schedule this year and return to where we were before COVID.

“It is definitely different from last year, but the girls are really excited to be all back in the pool together with no more split practices. It has been super fun getting back on the bus and competing as a team.”

Northfield, which opened its season Sept. 2 with a 95-88 loss at Rochester Mayo, will continue its 2021 season on Thursday, Sept. 16 with its home opener against Rochester Century at 6:30 p.m. The Gators will be aiming for success at the year-end conference meet Oct. 29-30 and the section meet Nov. 10-12, which serves as a qualifier for the 2021 MSHSL state meet.

“I think we are pretty well rounded as a team,” said Narveson, who competes in the 500 free and 100 back. “We are a real deep team with a lot of fast girls in every event.”

Narveson sees the competition amongst the team as a way help improve times, scores and get the Gators ready to make their run at the end of the year.

“A lot of our season is building up for that final meet, but also along the way, getting to know everyone, being together and sharing time at meets and practices,” Narveson said.

Morgan indicated that his 2021 squad is a well-rounded team, which will be able to make an impact in all the events this fall. Steenblock, Scheglowski and junior Lindsay Sundby are all previous state qualifiers in swimming events and senior Cassie Meyer will be a veteran leader in the diving events for the Gators this season.

“I think our team has a real good chance to make an impact at both the conference and section meet,” Steenblock said. “We are a very deep team, which gives us opportunities to score more points in events than other teams. I think we are going to be very relevant coming into the championship meets.

“Personally, I would like to have an impact at the section meet and hopefully qualify for the state meet. The AA cuts are a lot harder than A, so it is about making some very specific goals for yourself…you have to dig deep and work really hard to reach but I think we can do it.”

Morgan noted that a hallmark of his team is that many former Northfield swimmers and divers have gone on to compete at the collegiate level. This desire to swim at the next level is another driving factor for his squad and another reason to aim big at the section meet.

“You can only qualify for state at sectionals,” Morgan said. “A lot of the kids are aiming to swim past high school and we have had a lot of our past swimmers and divers go on to compete at the DI, DII and DIII college level. W want them to be recruited and want them to be seen, and the best stage that Minnesota has to offer is the high school state meet,”

Success on the scoreboard has certainly been a part of the Northfield swim and dive program in recent years, but the connections and memories make being part of the team a special thing.

“What swimming is for a lot of us is getting together,” Scheglowski said. “This team is a big family, and I think it is really important to have fun along the way. We stay focused on our goals but we also have the long lasting memories and want to make this season one to remember.

“Personally, one of my biggest goals is to give back to this team what it has given to me over the past five years. I really try to help the younger girls and make them realize that this team is an important thing, and hopefully they will also want to give back as much as they can in the years to come.”

Last year’s COVID protocols forced the Gators split practices and limited the time the team was together. The return to normal meets and practice sessions are most welcomed by the 2021 swimmers and divers.

“We had some early captain’s practices, not so much to get in shape but just to get everyone together socially and back together as one team because we were so separated last year,” Scheglowski said. “Last year, all the divers were doing their dives and we had two different swimming pods, so it was really a clean cut between one pod to the next. This year we are trying to bring all those pods back together.”

As one of this year’s captains, Scheglowski believes her impact on the team will be both in the pool and as a mentor for her teammates.

“As a captain, it is really important that we try to be the example for all of the girls and to help them realize that if they work hard they are going to improve and see that improvement in their times or scores for diving,” Scheglowski said. “We just need to lead by example and make sure the girls are having fun, making those memories and realizing the reason why they are here and on this team.”

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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