RHINELANDER — The Lakeland Union High School girls’ swim team scored a trio of top two finishes Saturday and placed third in the five-team Hodag Relays hosted by Rhinelander High School at the Heck Family Community Pool.
The meet was dominated by the Hodags, who won eight of the 10 events, but it was the T-Birds who spoiled Rhinelander’s bid for a clean sweep of the events by scoring a victory in the closest race of the day.
It came in the 150-yard mixer medley relay, in which a team of three swam a length of freestyle followed by a length of one of the specialty strokes — breaststroke, backstroke and then butterfly.
Mariah Angove put the T-Birds in front in the opening freestyle/breaststroke leg, Amanda Kosmen maintained the advantage in the freestyle/backstroke leg and Naomi Hamerla finished it off in the freestyle/butterfly leg as she hit the wall at 1 minute, 29.25 seconds, a mere 0.08 seconds ahead of Rhinelander’s Grace Heck, stopping the Hodags’ streak of seven straight wins to start the meet.
“We were all like, ‘Were we the first ones to beat them today?’ Everyone was so hyped up after that,” LUHS assistant girls’ swim coach Leanna Schwartzlow said afterward. “That one was just icing on the cake. We had some off finishes in the Rhinelander meet and, today, we just out touched them. That was so exciting.”
Schwartzlow was in charge of the team Saturday with Chris and Robert Garcia both out of town. Though the T-Birds had a limited lineup — scratching in three of the 10 events — Schwartzlow said the team took a big step forward from its 91-78 loss to Rhinelander in a GNC dual five days prior in Minocqua.
“I’m really proud of how it turned out,” she said. “They did way better than I ever imagined that they’d be doing in this part of the season. They were throwing out some awesome starts, awesome finishes and they were going really hard. Turns and finishes were pretty on point compared to last week. There was much improvement. I feel that everyone had a good meet for the most part.”
The top two teams in each event received medals. In addition to the win in the mixer medley, Lakeland hit the medal stand with runner-up finishes in the 200 medley relay and the 500 freestyle decrescendo relay.
The T-Birds were a competitive second to Rhinelander in both races. Nina Starynski, Morgan Nowak, Rylee Ahlborn and Hamerla finished second in the medley (2:12.34), roughly two-and-a-half seconds behind the Hodags.
“That was strong and that helped bring everyone’s attitude up and everyone was excited to go,” Schwartzlow noted.
Ahlborn, Kosmen, Angove and Hamerla made up the quartet in the decrescendo, which started with a 200-yard freestyle leg, and became shorter with each subsequent leg. The team broke the previous meet record in the event by more than two seconds, but finished roughly 3.2 seconds behind Rhinelander.
Kosmen, Starynski, Ahlborn and Angove added a third-place finish for Lakeland in the 400 individual medley relay.
Though Saturday’s event was a departure from the norm — an event comprised entirely of relay races — Schwartzlow said there was plenty the team learned about itself and the other four schools in the field.
“I feel like just being in this atmosphere and working on relay exchanges with different people is helpful for the future,” she said. “We went into this meet just trying to have fun. It’s a relay. You get to do a lot of different kinds of strokes and relays and mix it up.”
Rhinelander finished second in the two events it did not win to take the meet running away with 132 points. Wausau West was second with 86 points, followed by Lakeland with 60, Marshfield with 56 and Antigo with 50.
Lakeland returns to action Thursday when it travels to reigning Great Northern Conference champion Tomahawk.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.