The Lakeland girls’ swim team will ride a wave of momentum into the UW-Stevens Point pool on Saturday for the Colby/Abbotsford sectional meet. 

Some great swims last Friday at their home Great Northern Conference meet should have the Thunderbirds confident when they arrive in Point to race for a trip to state. 

Mariah Angove was the conference champion in the 100-yard freestyle and third in the 100 backstroke. Rylee Ahlborn was conference runner-up in both the 50 and 200 yard freestyle. Naomi Hamerla took third in conference in the 100 yard butterfly. Amanda Kosmen took fourth in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 500 yard freestyle.

Those four girls make up the Lakeland 200-yard freestyle relay team that was the third fastest in the conference, finishing at the GNC meet in 1:43.22. But they also were 0.08 seconds away from having their name placed on the LUHS pool as the school record holders in that race.  

The quartet of young Thunderbirds, none of whom are seniors, were also the conference runners-up in the 400 yard freestyle relay.

“Our 200 and 400 free relays were really impressive and would love to see them do even better at sectionals,” head coach Chris Garcia said. “The 200 free relay was only 0.08 away from the 2003 relay record. Robert (Garcia, assistant coach) and I would love to see these girls get their names on the board and if things work out, qualify for the state meet.”

The champions in each event in each of Saturday’s four Division 2 sectionals qualify for state, as do the next 12 fastest times across all four sectionals.

Standing in their way is familiar foe Tomahawk, along with a couple other teams coach Garcia knows will be tough competition for her girls.

“Our sectional has some other pretty fast teams,” she said. “Rice Lake and Merrill, based on their conference results will have some very good swimmers. I’m sure they did not taper fully for their conference meets so they will go even faster on Saturday.”

Katy Volz, Kaylie Svacina, Molly Mott, and Kylee Theiler of Tomahawk took the GNC title in the 200 free relay and they have the fastest seed time for the sectional race with a 1:42.22.   

Right behind them is another team Lakeland recently swam against in Merrill. Their 200 free relay team of Grace Shultz, Camryn Schulz, Trinity Kanitz, and Claire Schultz took third in the Wisconsin Valley Conference meet and they’ll start the sectional race with the second fastest seed time, 1:42.25.  

The final team seeded faster than Lakeland’s 200 free team is also from the GNC. Ladysmith Co-op’s  Brooke and Megan Lechleitner, along with Samantha Burroughs and Lacey Fuse, took second at the conference meet in the 200 relay and will carry a time of 1:43:21 to Stevens Point.

The 100 freestyle also looks to be a close race. Lakeland’s GNC champion Angove comes into sectionals with the fifth-fastest seed time, 56.72. Ahead of her are Claire Schultz from Merrill, Megan Marks of Tomahawk and the Forsberg sisters, Faith and Grace, of Rice Lake. All five girls are within a second and a half of each other.

The 50 freestyle is just as close. Lakeland’s Rylee Ahlborn, the GNC’s runner-up will have quite a showdown with Claire Schultz of Merrill, Faith Forsberg of Rice Lake, Katy Volz of Tomahawk and the Lechleitner’s from Ladysmith Co-op. All of the girls are less than a second apart in their seed times.

Garcia looks forward to the close competition but knows her girls will have to exceed their great performance at the conference meet if they want a trip to state.

“I’m pretty excited for all the races as we hope the girls will still go a bit faster.”

The Colby/Abbotsford sectional meet is Saturday at 1 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point pool.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.