Detroit Lakes senior Syd Gulon recently accepted an athletic and academic scholarship to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks where she will swim the breaststroke and 500-freestyle for the Nanooks.
She officially signed her national letter of intent Monday at a ceremony held at Detroit Lakes high school.
Gulon departs the Laker program as one of, if not the best swimmer in the history of the program.
“We’ve had Melissa Paakh and we have Jen Tracy, so I would say there’s been a lot of good swimmers and I may just fall into that category,” she said.
Combined Gulon and Tracy have created an entire new record board erasing all but one of Paakh’s former records. Gulon is a part of all three relay school records, owns the 200-free school and pool marks, the 100-free pool record, both 500-free records and the 100-breaststroke record.
“She’s obviously got the most records on the board and is very dedicated to the sport,” head coach Carol Fischer said. “She’s driven.”
According to Fischer, Gulon has two key ingredients that have led to her success.
“The intensity is there,” said Fischer. “Somebody who really has that focus. Everything else is out of her mind. Not that everyone doesn’t have it, but other than Melissa Paakh, she’s got that intensity - she’s a case study in blocking out and intensity.”
Fischer noted Gulon has learned how to picture how she wants to feel in the pool and that has brought her to a higher level.
“It’s almost like you’re looking down on yourself while you’re swimming,” said Fischer. “It’s kind of an out of body experience.”
Fischer, a former Laker swimming standout herself, knows the feeling.
“That’s what I had when I was a senior; I had this out of body experience,” she said. “I don’t even remember breathing. I didn’t think about it and the next day I tapped into that feeling and dropped more time.That’s the level Syd is at. She’s had these swims where she feels so powerful. It’s a thrill to watch her because she just takes off. When she hits something and she knows that she’s got it, she’s going for it.”
It’s one of the ways, as much as swimming with intensity and setting records, that Gulon has led her teammates by example.
“All of these girls could do what Syd’s doing, but they just haven’t tapped into that,” said Fischer.
Another aspect that has changed in Laker swimming is moving from one or two standouts to finding team success. DL won their first section title in over a decade and captured a fifth straight True Team section championship - something that is only won by having a full team effort.
When asked what has changed the most in the past five seasons for Gulon, she answered quickly, “How far we’ve come as a team, definitely.”
It’s something Fischer has seen develop over the last 14 seasons.
“Through the years, we’ve had some great leaders in the pool,” she said. “Ever since 2004 when I started, we’ve had girls that have had a goal, a mission and it was one or two. Now, we’re more of a team. People still think it’s an individual sport, the last several years, it’s become more of a team.”
When Gulon started it was a challenge to compete with Park Rapids in the Mid-State Conference and losing to Bemidji at sections was a given. Over her stint as a Laker, DL has dominated the conference title and finally broke through at sections after close losses in 2016-17.
Fischer credits the speed and strength program at DLHS, along with the dedication of her swimmers as to how Gulon and the team have found success.
“It’s just a good time to be a swimmer here in Detroit Lakes,” said Fischer. “All the resources they have, they can do something over the summer. If it’s not getting in the pool, we have a great speed and strength program. I’ve noticed all those girls that did that this summer have been dropping time.”
Gulon was recruited for her breaststroke, something that just kind of happened her junior season and will also swim the 500-free for the Nanooks. The coaching staff found her on Instagram and started the recruiting process by telephone.
While Fairbanks, Alaska is a long way from home, her coaches will have a big hint of Minnesota at every practice and meet.
“The amazing thing is the soon-to-be head coach is going to be Rebecca Weiland,” said Gulon.
She noted that with obvious glee on her face.
“That’s so exciting and one of the volunteer coaches will be Heidi Busack,” Gulon said. “I’ll have Gopher legends coaching me.”
Weiland was named the Nanooks’ associate head coach in March becoming the first female to oversee the Alaska Nanooks women's swim team in a head coaching capacity. She was a 13-time All-American swimming for the Gophers from 2011-2015 winning four B1G Ten Conference titles, four consecutive appearances at the NCAA DI Swimming and Diving National Championships and multiple B1G Ten Conference honors. Additionally, Weiland competed at the Olympic Trials in both 2012 and 2016.