The essence of a true team was just one aspect of the WHS girls’ swimming and diving team this season, according to head coach Amy Howard.
“This year, I saw the younger girls really gelling with the older girls and they were working hard together and having fun,” she said. “I really emphasize how important every girl’s efforts were to the success of the team and I think they internalized that, did the work, got the points and had fun doing it.”
The Wildcats finished the season 3-5, with dual wins over Litchfield, New Prague, and St. Peter. Despite the “losing” record, the Wildcats were certainly winning in the pool.
“Girls dropped times that were unprecedented,” Howard said. “We had more young girls making it to the finals meets, more girls on the podium stand not just participating and the girls that went to state were much higher in the rankings than we have ever been. Our team is definitely getting stronger.”
As a team, Waconia finished sixth at the Wright County Conference championship meet, out of seven conference teams. At the Section 3A meet in early November, the Wildcats advanced Taylor Beynon, Jessica Stangret, and Nicole Hennen to the state meet.
At state, Stangret finished fourth in the 100 backstroke, while Hennen was 12th overall in diving. Beynon competed in two events, finishing 9th in the 500 freestyle and 12th in the 200 IM.
The Wildcats will say goodbye to four strong seniors this season, who have become an intertwined aspect of the Wildcats and will hugely affect the team.
“These four have really made a difference, not only in points but in leadership and character,” Howard said of Abigail Wessale, Nicole Hennen, Mari Rathke, and Rachael Sanborn.
“Abigail Wessale has been an impactive flyer for us for so many years and she is rock steady in her love and support of the team,” Howard said. “Nicole Hennen has been our strongest diver for years and is always adding to our point total…Rachel Sanborn, such a fantastic swimmer – well-rounded, able to do any stroke and gain points, always happy. Mari Rathke, my always and forever energizer bunny. Mari doesn’t know the meaning of the word slow or lacking effort.”
Despite the seniors departure, there is a wealth of talent set to return for next season in this year’s regular varsity members, as well as up and coming swimmers.
“All of my juniors and seniors will be point earners for sure,” Howard said. “There are some up and coming younger girls that are already making their way into the varsity ranks … when I look down the list … it’s very exciting.”
All-Conference awards went to Beynon, Kahl, Schmieg, and Stangret. Team awards included: High Point (Beynon), Wildcat Award (Megan Schuler), Rookie of the Year (Anneli Paulson), Hardest Worker (Faith Pawelk), and Most Improved (Ashley Basile).
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]