‘Cats have talent-deep pool with 28 returning swimmers
Team: Waconia girls’ swimming and diving
Coach: Amy Howard-Schmitt
Assistant coaches: Ashley Westphal, Drew Sodey, and Jennifer Mell (diving) Captains: Sophia Younkin and Hannah Schultz
2011 finish: In 2011, the Wildcat swimmers far exceeded the expectations that Howard-Schmitt had set for them. After only one or two wins in previous seasons, the Wildcats were 5-6 in 2011 and placed in every invitational they attended. At the section meet, 10 of 21 events advanced to the finals and Jessica Stangret advanced to the state meet in the 100-meter backstroke (where she finished 22nd in Class A). Last year recognized one All-Conference athlete, Taylor Beynon, who returns to the team this season. The team also saw three new school records set in the 100-meter backstroke (Stangret), 200IM (Beynon), and the 200-free relay (Alexanna Gluck, Nicole Hennen, Hannah Schultz, and Carolyn Schmieg).
Teams to beat: In 2011, Waconia defeated both Mound-Westonka and Watertown-Mayer. Howard-Schmitt said the Wildcats hope to take them both again this season. She said other top contenders also include Dassel-Cokato and Orono. While swimming powerhouse Hutchinson is just out of reach to beat this season, Howard-Schmitt said the eventual goal is to ultimately be as strong as Hutchinson. “I find them a great mentor for our programs,” she said of the Tigers.
Key returners/prospects: The Wildcats are seeing many of the same faces in the pool this year, losing only three seniors from last season. To compensate, there are 15 new swimmers on the team, 14 of who are seventh graders, and many of whom already have competitive swimming experience from club teams. On the diving side, returners Nicole Hennen and Ella Hommer are expected to lead the Wildcat divers. To choose standout swimmers is difficult for Howard-Schmitt so early in the season. “Right now, I’ve got so much talent in the pool, I can’t say who my key players are,” she said.
Goals: As for team goals, Howard-Schmitt said she is really looking at the record board this season. “I’d like to see a lot of records fall,” she said. First, she is going to go after some distance records dating back to 2004. She is also looking to Hennen and Hommer to go for diving records from 2003-04. Howard-Schmitt said the 200 free record set by Jenny Nelson in 2004 is in contention to be broken this year by a number of swimmers including Mari Rathke, Harley Ruiz, Schmieg, and Stangret, all of whom return from the 2011 team. Howard-Schmitt said she hopes to do well in sections this season and to send multiple individuals and perhaps even a relay to the state meet.
The season kicks off this Saturday at Hutchinson. The meet begins at 10 a.m.