The Detroit Lakes swimming and diving team has looked up the podium often at the seven-time defending champion Bemidji Lumberjacks, including a runner-up finish by only nine points in 2017, but the Lakers broke through and changed that fortune in record-breaking fashion Saturday, Nov. 10 claiming the Section 8A team championship in Warroad by a margin of 37 points.

“Wow! It was so fun to see the girls take charge and swim breakout races,” DL head coach Carol Fischer said. “The girls earned every race, podium moment and the section title. Truly, a team effort right down to the last two events, really. The Lakers were hungry for a sweet victory - to do that we had to get as many Lakers into finals as we could, which meant some had to swim and dive out of their minds to achieve this goal.”

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The Lakers had three dominating performances grabbing the top three breaststroke finishes and the top two finishes in the butterfly and 500-freestyle.

“Those were the frosting on the cake but the batter was the other top 16 finishes,” Fischer said.

JOSIE RETZ - Brian Basham / Special to the Tribune
JOSIE RETZ - Brian Basham / Special to the Tribune

Syd Gulon, Madi Gerdes and Ellie Staley combined to score 53 team points in the breaststroke and Chelsy Johnson’s top finish in the B Finals (ninth place) added nine points to put up big numbers in the penultimate event of the meet.

“A great meet, a great finish,” Bemidji head coach Woody Leindecker posted to Twitter after the meet. “We gave everything we had but ran out of scorers. They had too much in event 11 where it was wrapped up. I am happy for the Lakers and proud of the Jacks’ effort. Both teams are a class act.”

Gulon, Lucy Steinke, Kaitlyn Peterson and Jennifer Tracy polished off the victory with a section championship swim in the 400-freestyle relay to put up 40 points to 34 from the runner-up Lumberjacks and did so by setting a pool record of 3:41.18, knocking more than five seconds off their preliminary time.

“The 400 free relay's job was to not get disqualified to win the meet and they did it,” said Fischer.

Swimming the lead lap, Gulon’s time was also eligible to count as an official record-breaking time for DL’ s school record in the 100-freestyle.

Tracy and Evan Westrum swept the top two butterfly finishes. Tracy broke her own pool and section records in the event winning in a time of 58.82. Westrum swam 1:02.71 and Lexi Gerdes came in sixth place (1:07.32) as the trio scored 50 points.

Gulon broke the pool record and her own section record in the 500 swimming a new time of 5:16.54. DL also got a fourth place finish from Faith Hamm and 10th place mark from Ellie Staley.

Tracy was also the 200 IM section champion and Lexi Gerdes finished 11th.

KAITLYN PETERSON - Brian Basham / Special to the Tribune
KAITLYN PETERSON - Brian Basham / Special to the Tribune

Peterson grabbed her own section championship winning the 200-free in 2:00.16, backed up by Faith Hamm with a sixth place finish and Josie Retz posting an 11th place finish.

Four Laker divers placed led by section champion Lexi Yliniemi. Jackson Hegg finished fourth, Kennedy Hegg finished 11th and Kylie Tulius 16th. Yliniemi and Jackson Hegg will represent the Lakers at state in diving as the top four qualify.

According to Fischer, the 100 backstroke saw an incredible effort by senior Josie Retz who finished third with her career best time of 1:02.72. Retz just missed a state qualifying runner-up finish by four-tenths of a second to Bemidji senior Abby Yartz.

In the sprints, Steinke was fifth and Johnson 14th in the 100-free. Steinke and Evan Westrum finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 50-free.

“I'm so proud of all the girls this entire epic 2018 season,” said Fischer.

LEXI YLINIEMI - Brian Basham / Special to the Tribune
LEXI YLINIEMI - Brian Basham / Special to the Tribune

DL’s 200-medley relay team of Retz, Gulon, Tracy and Steinke started the meet with a runner-up finish (1:52.62) missing first place by one-tenth of a second to the team from Fergus Falls. The 200-free relay team placed third.

Lakers going to the state meet are the 200-medley team (Retz, Gulon, Tracy and Steinke), Peterson in the 200-free and 500-free, Tracy in the IM and butterfly, Westrum in the butterfly, Yliniemi and Jackson Hegg in diving, Gulon in the 500 and breaststroke. Madi Gerdes in the breaststroke, and the 400-free relay team (Gulon, Steinke, Peterson and Tracy).

The section title is the second championship in team history and the first in more than a decade.

The state meet will be held Nov. 14-16 at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota.


Section 8A Swimming and Diving Championships

Team scores: Detroit Lakes 444; Bemidji 407; Grand Rapids 335; Fergus Falls 252; Park Rapids 236; Perham 129; Thief River Falls 129; Warroad 86; Fosston Bagley 84; Crookston 83.

200 Medley Relay

1 Fergus Falls A 1:52.52

2 Detroit Lakes 1:52.62 (Retz, Gulon, Tracy, Steinke)

200 Freestyle

1 Peterson, Kaitlyn 2:00.16

6 Hamm, Faith 2:10.04

11 Retz, Josie 2:13.03

200 Individual Medley

1 Tracy, Jennifer 2:14.58

11 Gerdes, Lexi 2:27.96

50 Freestyle

1 Andersen, Paige Bemidji 24.75

5 Steinke, Lucy 26.03

6 Westrum, Evan 26.25

1m Diving

1 Yliniemi, Lexi 384.50

4 Hegg, Jackson 355.25

11 Hegg, Kennedy 278.95

16 Tulius, Kylie 239.15

100 Butterfly

1 Tracy, Jennifer 58.82

2 Westrum, Evan 1:02.71

6 Gerdes, Lexi 1:06.28 1:07.32

100 Freestyle

1 Andersen, Paige Bemidji 54.25

5 Steinke, Lucy 56.44

14 Johnson, Chelsy 59.43

500 Freestyle


1 Gulon, Sydney 5:16.54

2 Peterson, Kaitlyn 5:29.77

4 Hamm, Faith 5:42.09

10 Staley, Ellie 5:53.38

200 Freestyle Relay

1 Fergus Falls A 1:42.49

3 Detroit Lakes 1:43.34

100 Backstroke

1 Hubert, Madison Fergus Falls 59.20

3 Retz, Josie 1:02.72

100 Breaststroke

1 Gulon, Sydney 1:08.66

2 Gerdes, Madi 1:13.60

3 Staley, Ellie 1:13.62

9 Johnson, Chelsy 1:18.64

400 Freestyle Relay

1 Detroit Lakes 3:41.18 (Gulon, Steinke, Peterson, Tracy)