Lakers gather three All-State honors
It came down to a stretch of an arm to determine the Class 1A 100-yard butterfly state championship and unfortunately for Detroit Lakes sophomore Melissa Paakh, it didn't belong to her.
Despite eclipsing the Class 1A state record time of 56.10 with a 56.03, Paakh was nipped out at the finish line by Hutchinson's sophomore Audrey Kumm, who bested the DL swimming phenom by .3 of a second to claim the state title Saturday inside the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center.
Kumm now holds the Class 1A state record with a 55.73.
Even though Paakh finished as the state's runner-up for the second consecutive year, her 56.03 mark was good enough for an All-American standard.
"Melissa's goal was to get at least a 56.09 and she beat that," said DL head coach Carol McCarthy. "I know she was psyched and wanted to win it, but she broke a state record and had her best race ever.
"She couldn't have done much more."
Paakh entered the 100 butterfly finals as the top seed after racing for a 56.67 in the preliminaries.
"It felt good because I knew what I've been doing all season preparing for this moment," Paakh said after racing in the prelims. "I've worked so hard for this."
The entire race, Kumm and Paakh were neck-and-neck. The biggest gap between the two came near the finish line where Kumm was able to make a bit more of a push and out-touch Paakh by .3 of a second.
"Audrey just had a little bit of a longer reach there at the end," McCarthy said. "It was a battle of wills and these two have raised the bar even higher for next year."
Paakh had her second All-State honor in the 200-indivdual medley by taking fifth overall with a time of 2:10.82.
Kumm also won 200 IM with a mark of 2:07.67.
Junior Shayna Dugger claimed her second-straight All-State honor in diving after she finished fifth with a score of 307.4.
Winning the event was Tori Raihle of Spring Lake Park with a 350.50.
Dugger entered the finals seeded fourth after making an amazing comeback in the preliminaries, jumping from 17th to fourth with her final two dives.
"The beginning of the meet didn't get off too well, my forward approaches weren't going well," Dugger said of the preliminary rally. "I knew I needed to pick it up after finishing 17th (after the first round in the prelims)."
In the finals, Dugger scored 89.9 points with her three dives to finish with her 307.4.
"I felt I did all right (in the finals) and there was some top competition this year," Dugger said. "But in the big picture, it was still good to finish fifth overall. I never really trained all year round and this made me realize I need to practice more during the offseason."
Two of her teammates didn't make the final 16 cut, but nonetheless, was a perfect learning experience for the pair of sophomores.
Taryn Kobriger finished 22nd with a score of 114.80, while fellow sophomore diver Bre Halbur -- out for her first season of diving -- finished 25th with a 111.30.
"I'm not disappointed, even though my goal was to finish in the top 16," Kobriger said. "The board was harder than I expected, but it was fun and I'm going to work hard to make it back next year."
For Halbur, a veteran already of state meets after qualifying for each the state gymnastics and track events, said this meet was a bit different.
"I haven't really been in a pool like this one (at the U of M Aquatics Center) and the board for me was a bit too soft, so that was a bit distracting," Halbur said. "It was kind of a rough meet, but if I make it next year, I'll know what it's all about."
The gutsiest performance of the day goes to Laker sophomore Libby Larson.
After lining up for the National Anthem, a coach from a different team turned around with his program unaware Larson was standing behind him.
His program hit Larson in the eye and literally gave her a paper cut on her eyeball.
With the distraction of the big-meet atmosphere already a challenge, the eye injury for Larson was too much mental focus to overcome.
But, she still swam in the 500-freestyle, despite the painful injury.
"I was just going to do my best," Larson said. "Even though I didn't swim my best race, this is really going to make me work harder to get back."
"It was just a freak accident," McCarthy said. "But Libby still decided to swim the race and she swam very well. I think this experience can make her stronger for the next two years."
Larson missed the final 16 cut by four positions by taking 20th with a time of 5:37.12.
Winning the team title was Visitation with a score of 268, while DL finished 17th out of 47 teams with 45 points.
"It was a very impressive state meet for us," McCarthy concluded. "All of our (competitors) had their best effort. We had three All-State and one All-American time.
"You can't beat that."
Minnesota State High School League Class 1A state girls' swimming and diving meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center, Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 13-15.
Team results (top 5 of 47 teams): Visitation 268, Monticello 197, Sartell 162, Hutchinson 156, Fergus Falls 145. 17. Detroit Lakes 45.
State champions in each event (*Class 1A state record) -- 200 medley relay: Visitation (Julie Steege, Olivia McNeely, Maddy DeMeules, Sophie Pilhofer) 1:48.12...200 freestyle: Meghan Weiss (Visitation) 1:52.04...200 individual medley: Audrey Kumm (Hutchinson) 2:07.67...50 freestyle: Sophie Pilhofer (Visitation) 23.83...Diving: Tori Raihle (Spring Lake Park) 350.50...100 butterfly: *Kumm, 57.69...100 freestyle: Weiss 51.17...500 freestyle: *Marisa Wood (Sartell) 5:02.05...200 freestyle relay: Sartell (Tarin Anding, Kate Hellie, Molly Peichel,Wood) 1:37.63...100 backstroke: *Taylor Foster (Breck) 56.72...100 breaststroke: *Olivia McNeely (Visitation) 1:04.31...400 freestyle relay: *Visitation (Foster, Molly George, Steege, Weiss) 3:34.97.
DL results -- 200 individual medley: 5. Melissa Paakh 2:10.82 (prelim: 2:09.95...Diving: 5. Shayna Dugger 307.40 (prelim: 217.50); 22. Taryn Kobriger 114.80; 25. Bre Halbur 111.3...100 butterfly: 2. Paakh 56.03 (prelim: 56.67)...500 freestyle: 20. Libby Larson 5:37.12.