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Four Lakers head back to state swim meet

All four Laker swimmers and divers will be making repeat appearances this Thursday through Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center. Those who qualified for state include (L to R) front: Melissa Paakh (100-yard butterfly and 100 breastroke) and Shayna Dugger (diving). Back: Libby Larson (500 freestyle) and Bre Halbur (diving). (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

The Class 1A state girls' swimming and diving meet will have some familiar faces from Detroit Lakes, as all four state qualifiers have been there, done that.

The Lakers will be bringing plenty of state experience Thursday through Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center, with a combined 15 state meets between the four DL swimmers and divers.

Juniors Melissa Paakh and Libby Larson have five state appearances each between them, while senior Shayna Dugger has been a state diver three times.

Junior diving teammate Bre Halbur qualified for her second straight meet, as well.

"There shouldn't be anything new for the girls, just the process of getting there," said DL head coach Carol McCarthy. "They know what to expect when they get there."

The state meet has become mostly old hat for the DL foursome, and success at the event has been reached.

So for the 2009 Class 1A meet, the Lakers hope to add yet another positive chapter in their growing state experience journey.

Paakh focused on doing best after silver last year

After nearly clinching DLHS' first-ever girls' swimming state championship last year in the 100-yard butterfly, a different approach is being taken by the highly-talented Paakh.

Extra time put in the pool and hard work has put Paakh among the best butterfly swimmers in the state, but her focus is inward -- not on what her competition is doing.

"I really went out and worked as hard as I ever have," Paakh said of her offseason regimen. "I was lifting and running on my own. Hopefully in my last big meet, it will show at state.

"I'm trying not to think what will happen at state, but just let what happens, happen. There's not much more I can do, because I never worked as hard in my life and I know it will pay off no matter what happens."

Last year's state 100 butterfly champion, Audrey Kumm enters the state with the second-best section time at 58.42, with Austin junior Averi Splinter having the top time at 58.71.

Kumm set a new state record with a 55.73 time, while Paakh earned silver with a 56.03 mark.

Paakh's 59.06 mark broke her own Section 8-1A record, and gives her the third seed heading into state.

But the DL junior is expecting a better time come state, since she was untapered for the section.

"I know it will be a good race, because I know Audrey (Kumm) works hard and is a good swimmer," Paakh said. "Last year I was more focused on winning and after the meet, I was pretty bummed and thought all that work went to waste.

"But whatever Audrey gets or (Splinter) does, I have no control over it. I will have no regrets."

McCarthy has seen first hand the time and effort Paakh has been putting in to better herself, and the DL coach believes it will pay off.

"I think she is the hardest worker in Minnesota," McCarthy said. "I know she doesn't like coming in second, so she is using all her resources to get better and she is a big-meet swimmer."

Paakh also changed course this season by qualifying for the 100 breaststroke, after taking second in the section with a time of 1:11.84.

She was a fifth-place finisher in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:10.82.

"It was kind of a random choice to try for the 100 breaststroke," Paakh said. "I tried swimming it during a home meet and set the DL record, so I decided to give it a shot. If I want, I can go back to it next year."

Divers make each other better

Having not just two top divers, but four on the same team works wonders, as Dugger and Halbur both found out.

Dugger is the unquestioned leader of the diving team, with three state appearances and a three-time section champion.

Halbur is quickly earning her stripes, however, with a state-qualifying effort last year in her first year competing in the sport, while Taryn Kobriger and Kyley Foster each finished in the top eight in the section meet this year.

For Dugger, state success has come in the form of a third-place finish two years ago and a fifth-place finish last season.

She has concentrated on just polishing up and improving her same dives from a year ago, while she won her third-consecutive section title with a score of 340.05. She also earned the Section 8-1A Diver of the Year honors, as well.

"I just kept my same diving list from a year ago and just improved them," Dugger said. "The state atmosphere is pretty normal for me now, too."

She and her teammate and best friend Halbur will make each other better at state, as well.

"Bre isn't only my best friend, but she's a great competitor," Dugger said. "It benefits both of us."

Halbur finished second in the section with a score of 316.65 and hopes to make the finals this weekend, which means claiming a top 16 spot after Thursday's preliminaries.

"My goal was to make state again after last year, I never expected to, since it was my first season out for diving," Halbur said. "I found out there were a lot of tough divers at state.

"Shayna pushes me every day and I look up to her. She helps me a lot."

DL diving coach Bobbi Jo Koons wants each diver to see improvement.

"I would like to see them improve their finishes in state from last year," Koons said. "Bre had a phenomenal season and she has cleaned up her entry and improved on her technique.

"Shayna is such a powerful diver that if she can harness that power, she'll do great."

Larson looks to overcome last year's incident

Larson's state meet last year ended before it even started.

In a weird incident during the National Anthem, another team's coach accidentally turned around and hit Larson in the eye with his program.

Larson literally suffered a paper cut on her eyeball, which obviously hindered her performance in the 500 freestyle event.

Needless to say, that provided plenty of motivation for Larson.

"I really got it going around the midway point of the season after I started off a bit slow," Larson said. "My goal in sections was to just swim my own race and break the 5:30 mark, which I did (5:27.56, good for her second straight section title).

"I realize time is running out for me, since I'm a junior, and I found out I do better when I just swim my own race."

Larson is seeded 17th, and is on the bubble to finish in the top 16 and qualify for the finals.

Overall, several other Lakers are knocking on the door for state after a solid section meet, which was held in Warroad.

DL qualified for the section finals in seven out of its nine events.

"There were a lot of personal best times," McCarthy said. "Experience in the section helped out a lot."

Larson just missed going to state in the 200 freestyle with a third-place finish, while Ashtin Spies was fifth in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:04.68.

Miranda Olson finished seventh in the 500 freestyle at 5:47.15, while Andrea Weiss was sixth in the 50 freestyle at 26.72.

The diving preliminaries are at noon Thursday, the swimming prelims Friday at noon and the finals for both start at noon Saturday.

Laker results

Section 8-1A meet in Warroad, Friday-Saturday, Nov. 13-14.

Team placings (points were not available: Park Rapids, Fergus Falls, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Warroad, Thief River Falls, Perham, Crookston, Fosston and Roseau.

DL event results (*state qualifier) -- 200 medley relay: 5. DL A, 2:02.74...200 freestyle: 3. Libby Larson 2:05.21...200 individual medley: 7. Miranda Olson 2:28.08...50 freestyle: 6. Andrea Weiss 26.72; 14. Bre Halbur 27.57...Diving: *1. Shayna Dugger 340.05; *2. Bre Halbur 316.65; 6. Kyley Foster 286.35; 7. Taryn Kobriger 278.40...100 butterfly: *1. Melissa Paakh 59.06 (Section record)...100 freestyle: 6. Ashtin Spies 58.08; 8. Weiss 58.77...500 freestyle: *1. Libby Larson 5:27.56; 7. Olson 5:47.15...200 freestyle relay: 8. DL A 1:53.28...100 backstroke: 5. Spies 1:04.68; 14. Kayla Lang 1:10.44...100 breaststroke: *2. Paakh 1:11.84...400 freestyle relay: 5. DL A 3:54.48.