The upcoming Section 8A swimming and diving championships have been a target goal for the Lakers since finishing runners-up by only nine points last year to the seven-time defending champions from Bemidji.
Detroit Lakes has defeated the Lumberjacks twice this season but “Beat Bemidji” stands out on the board of team goals the Lakers have at the DLHS pool as a box left unchecked. Winning in the regular season is one thing but finally getting that section team championship is a blaring goal for this year’s team.
“That will be a huge accomplishment for me because we have never done that in my time here,” said senior Syd Gulon. “I remember Grace Livermore saying, ‘We’ve got to beat Bemidji,’ and she’s been gone for four years now. It’s something for the whole team; we need to beat the Lumberjacks.”
Last year’s meet came down to the last event, the 400-freestyle relay, an event the Lakers are especially strong in this season.
“I’ve never had two relays in the 400 go under four minutes and that’s phenomenal,” DL head coach Carol Fischer said.
DL’s A team is comprised of Jennifer Tracy, Kaitlyn Peterson, Lucy Steinke and Gulon, while an equally competitive B team is made up of Evan Westrum, Maddie Henderson, Josie Retz, and Chelsy Johnson.
The friendly but intense rivalry with head coach Woody Leindecker’s Lumberjacks is big and even as underdogs this year Bemidji is definitely a contender to capture an eighth straight title if they can get by the Lakers.
“We’ve beat them twice this year but it’s like a poker game with Bemidji. They don’t lay all their cards on the table and he (Leindecker) plays mind games with us too,” said Fischer with a laugh.
Detroit Lakes has performed through one of the more competitive seasons in-house and that has proven to be a reason why Fischer has a lot of her girls working on times, not always spots in the varsity meets.
“I have a large pool of swimmers that should be varsity but you can’t swim them all at varsity so that’s when they go to JV and work on your time,” she said.
At this crucial part of the season, swimmers are working on those times mentally more than physically as they taper to the biggest two meets of the season - sections and state.
“At this time of year, it’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” said Fischer.
Much of practice is spent on getting swimmers out of their comfort zone and finding ways to mentally block out the pain that comes with striving for wins in the water.
“Personally speaking, my best moments were not even thinking about what I was doing; your body just takes over,” Fischer said. “If you can shut off that mind and just go. It’s a process and some people never get that. Some have that moment and it may not come for a while again but at least they experienced that. That’s what we do with the training, we’ll be doing a lot of mental training coming up the next week.”
The Section 8A championships will be held in Warroad Nov. 9-10 and the Lakers are working on how to focus for success and get that elusive team victory.
“We’re working on starving the distraction and feeding the focus,” Fischer said. “We have girls that are so scared of the huge meet and it’s mostly the younger girls. They have put in the work and now it’s just trusting your body and getting out of your comfortable zone. That’s why we practice it.”
Fischer has also stressed the opposing viewpoint in making sure practice has its fair share of fun to complement the effort.
“You’ve got to have fun,” said Fischer. “As much as I might come with a 6,000-yard workout one day, you kind of have to ride that wave too. If you give them a little fun, they’ll work harder for you. The little things that you pay attention to help keep them motivated.”
This year’s Laker team has plenty of motivation; they head to Warroad ready to grab that section championship.