by Dennis Dalman
In a swimming meet of breathtaking suspense, the nine-member Sartell Sabre Girls’ Swim Team took second-place honors in Class A tournament last week at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
The defending champs, the Blazers of Visitation (Mendota Heights), took first place again with a total of 309.5 points. The Sabres earned 180 points. Third was Albert Lea with 172 points.
During the make-or-break last relay of the meet, the 400-yard one, audience members held their breath because the Sartell and Breck teams were both in fourth place at that point, and the relay winner would make second place. The Sabres swam to a winning finish as the crowd erupted in jubilant commotion for relay swimmers Anna Ellis, Gaby Hagen, Marena Kouba and Paige Pawlenty.
What contributed to the edge-of-seat suspense is Hagen had been suffering with a bout of mono. Another swimmer, Lindsey Martens, was not feeling up to par, and yet another team member, diver Madi Molitor, had twisted her ankle at the sectional meet and yet still managed to pull off her last three dives at the state tourney.
The Sabres had qualified to perform in every event of the meet.
Another highlight the 200-yard medley relay on the first day of the meet set a Sartell school record. In that relay, Ellis did the backstroke, Kouba did the butterfly, Martens did the breaststroke and Jennifer Thompson swam freestyle.
Another school record was topped by Sabres diver Claire Boschee.
“There were stellar performances all the way through,” said coach Dave Olson. “The girls really impressed me. They just had that way of rising to the top at the same time. A real team effort.”
Besides coaching, Olson also teaches fifth-grade math and science at Sartell Middle School. He has coached the Sabre girls’ swim team for 26 years.
After their win, the Sabres were extremely happy for their second-place showing because that was what they were aiming for, knowing a win over the team from Visitation would be a tough possibility. Visitation, Olson noted, has a penchant for coming up with very fast swimmers.
“There were giant sighs of relief when we won second place,” Olson said.
Two years ago, the Sabres also took second place at state. Last year, they earned third place; they also took third in 2008. In both 2009 and 2011, the teams were Class A state champions.
The teams that competed in Class A competition at state last week, besides the Sabres, were Albert Lea, Blake (Mpls.), Faribault, Hutchinson, Northfield, Orono and Visitation (Mendota Heights).
The following are the Sabre’s events, participants and final times, as listed on the Minnesota State High School League website:
200-yard Medley Relay: 1:48:70. 3rd place. Ellis, Kouba, Martens, Thompson.
200-yard Freestyle: Pawlenty. 12th place. 1:59:45.
200-yard IM: Ellis, 9th place. 2.12.77; Kouba, 10th place, 2:14:19.
50-yard Freestyle: Thompson. Disqualified.
1-meter Diving: Claire Boschee, 12th place. 338.50
100-yard Butterfly: Hagen, 15th place. 1:00.74; Pawlenty, 16th place, 1:00:84.
100-yard Freestyle: Thompson, 5th place. 53:05.
500-yard Freestyle: Kendra Raths, 6th place. 5:17:91.
200-yard Freestyle Relay: 7th place. 1:39:27. Hagen, Martens, Pawlenty, Thompson.
100-yard Backstroke: Ellis, 3rd place. 57.78. Kouba, 4th place, 58.80.
100-yard Breaststroke: Martens, 11th place, 1:08:04.
400-yard Freestyle Relay: 3rd place, 3:36:62. Ellis, Hagen, Kouba, Pawlenty.