Coach: Amy Howard
Assistant coaches: Ashley Westphal, Drew Sodey, and new diving coach Kelsey Ludwigson
Captains: Mari Rathke and Rachael Sanborn
Conference: Wright County
Section: 3A – Chaska, Dassel-Cokato, Holy Family, Hutchinson, Litchfield, Marshall, Montevideo, Mound-Westonka, Orono, and Willmar
2012 finish: Six new school records were set in 2012, on the Wildcats’ way to a 5-4-1 season. The team was fourth at the Section 3A meet and qualified the 200 medley relay, 200 IM, and 100 backstroke events to state. At state, Jessica Stangret finished fifth overall in the 100 backstroke, while Taylor Beynon was 17th in the 100 IM and the relay was also 17th.
Key returnees: Beynon, Stangret, and Carolyn Schmieg return as 2012 All-Conference athletes this season along with other key swimmers in McKinna Kahl, Rathke, Sanborn, Abigail Wessale, and Nicole Hennen, the team’s only returning diver, among others.
“Most of our big point earners are back,” head coach Amy Howard said.
Key newcomers: Of the 42 members on the squad this season, over half are seventh and eighth graders, many of whom come from the Waconia Swim Club program with experience in competitive swimming. Keep an eye on for names like Anneli Paulson, Andrea Voelker, Kathryn Stangret, Nicole Schuler, and Karissa Ohlsen this season.
Teams to beat: Although their win-loss record last season was the best its been in years, the Wildcats are still gunning for many conference teams including Orono, Litchfield, and Dassel-Cokato.
In the team’s only tie of 2012, the Wildcats locked in a stalemate with Litchfield last year on the road, but Howard hopes this year’s meet at home will crown Waconia as the victor.
The Wildcats closed in on a win over the Chargers of D-C last season, but with a strong coach and a “really good” team, the Chargers will remain atop the Wildcats “to beat” list.
“I would love to take a hold of D-C this year,” Howard said.
In addition, the regular season co-op of Mound-Westonka/Holy Family will remain a challenge for the Wildcats as the super-squad is typically able to dominate the regular season schedule.
Changes for 2013: For the WHS swimmers this year, there will be no jamboree and the last home meet will come early, on Sept. 19 against Watertown-Mayer. Howard said she’d “like to have it more evened out,” in terms of scheduling but for this year, that’s just the way it goes.
Also this year, for the first time in a long time, the Wildcats will compete in the True Team sections in hopes of making True Team State. At True Team sections, each team is allowed just two swimmers per event and both swimmers are scored, regardless of finish, to determine which teams win by the depth of their entire team over just a few talented athletes.
Kelsey Ludwigson joins the Wildcat coaching staff as the new diving coach in the wake of Jennifer Mell’s departure from the team.
At the state level, the MSHSL state swimming and diving meet will run on a Monday-Wednesday schedule this year, due to venue conflicts with the University of Minnesota.
Goals: First and foremost on Howard’s list of goals this season is to finish updating the record board. With six records set last season and many more set in the two years prior, only a few records outlast Howard’s four years with the team.
“I’d like to bring that board up to date,” she said.
Oldest are the diving records, set by Kerin Jetto in 2004. Howard would like to see returning varsity diver Nicole Hennen take those down this season.
The 50 free (2009), 100 free (2008), 400 free relay (2008), and 100 breaststroke (2006) are also being contended for by this year’s swimmers. Of the other records, Howard said “I bet we reset most of them.”
In addition to breaking records, Howard plans to return to the state competition, hopefully with additional events and individuals this year.
“I expect to return to state,” she said, but as to who qualifies is yet to be seen as the season kicks underway next week.
First meet: WHS will kick off the 2013 season at a Hutchinson invitational this Saturday, Aug. 24. The ‘Cats will host Orono Tuesday, Aug. 27.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com