Paakh is first-ever Laker girls' state swimming champion

MINNEAPOLIS - It was going to be different this time around for Detroit Lakes senior Melissa Paakh. After finishing as the state runner-up the last three years, Paakh became the first-ever girl Laker to win a state swimming championship, after sh...

A championship effort
BRIAN WIERIMA/DETROIT LAKES NEWSPAPERS Melissa Paakh swims the last stretch of the 100-yard butterfly Saturday inside the University of Minnesota's Aquatics Center. Paakh won the event, thus becoming the first-ever Laker girls' swimming state champion.

MINNEAPOLIS - It was going to be different this time around for Detroit Lakes senior Melissa Paakh.

After finishing as the state runner-up the last three years, Paakh became the first-ever girl Laker to win a state swimming championship, after she topped the 100-yard butterfly state field with a time of 56.38.

The last 25 yards was the determining factor for Paakh, who was able to out-sprint last year's state butterfly champion senior Audrey Kumm of Hutchinson, who finished with a time of 56.51.

But after finishing the last three years as the state butterfly runner-up, having that No. 1 finish next to Paakh's name on the U of M Aquatics Center's scoreboard was quite surreal.

"I kept looking up at the board to make sure that No. 1 was still next to my name," an elated Paakh said. "I honestly don't remember much of the race, until about the last 25 yards. I just had in my head 'I'm going to do this, it's going to be different this year'.


"I've done mental training and I've envisioned so many times with that No. 1 next to my name at state. Now, it's coming true."

That it was, as the blue ribbon attached to a gold medal was safely around Paakh's neck.

"Blue is much better than all those red ones," said Paakh, who has competed in the maximum six state meets a high school competitor can.

But it has been a six-year journey for Paakh on her way to making Laker history, which has included endless hours of training, miles of laps in the pool and a hunger to win a state title.

"This is just a perfect ending to her career, you could write a book about it," said DL head coach Carol McCarthy. "People don't understand the work Melissa puts in all year round. She has done everything she has needed to do and Melissa has proven she is the hardest worker in the state."

Paakh was coming off a satisfying fourth-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, where she raced for a time of 2:11.00.

"I felt good about my 200 IM, I dropped a full second from my preliminary race and I felt I did well," Paakh added.

Paakh needed a perfect race heading in the finals, after she earned a No. 4 seed after the preliminaries Friday with a time of 58.33.


Six girls had sub-minute times, making it a very competitive finals.

Paakh's fourth seed was also new, after she earned the top seed after the state prelims the last three years -- which of course, ended with silver medals.

"I just wanted to qualify for the finals in the prelims and not have an outside lane," Paakh said. "I was just relaxed."

Kumm had the lead after the last turn, but Paakh was able to make up ground on the final lap.

In the past three outings against Kumm, the Hutchinson swimmer was able to make that final long reach.

This time was different.

"Everything we were talking about, Melissa did," McCarthy said. "Melissa was just able to outstretch Audrey, she was just out there and relaxed. In her last 10 yards, she had that relaxed stroke.

"It was just the perfect ending."


After Paakh hit the timing pad, she instantly looked up. A big, bright smile formed on her face, as she did a double and triple take to make sure she was a state champion.

"All that hard work has paid off," Paakh said. "I've wanted this for so long and this is a perfect way to end my career at Detroit Lakes."

It was certainly a different ending for Paakh this time around.

It was, in fact, a perfect ending.

Foster qualifies for finals in first state dive meet

For most eighth graders who make a state meet individually, it will be used as a learning experience with not many high expectations.

That wasn't the case for Laker eighth grader Kyley Foster.

The DL diver skipped a few steps on the ladder of progression and qualified for the Class 1A diving finals, after finishing 15th in the preliminaries Thursday.


Foster improved two positions in the finals and took 13th with a score of 283.20. She was one of four eighth graders who made state in diving, with only two making it to finals, which also included Bailey Dupay of Northfield, who finished sixth overall with a score of 332.55.

"It was just a big relief in making finals," Foster said. "My gameplan heading into finals was to keep my focus and just do the best I can. I felt very relaxed and was just soaking up the experience."

After seeing her teammate Paakh win DL's first-ever state title, Foster is more than inspired in following in those footsteps.

"I'm definitely going to strive for winning a state championship," Foster said. "It's good motivation to improve."

Foster has taken leaps and bounds in improvement already and her ceiling is still quite high.

"When Kyley gets into a meet, everything just clicks for her on the board," said DL diving coach Bobbi Jo Koons. "Just her experiencing being down at state is huge."

Senior Libby Larson didn't qualify for the finals in the 500-yard freestyle, after she finished 23rd with a time of 5:28.07.

Laker results


Minnesota State High School League Class 1A state swimming and diving meet, Friday-Saturday, Nov. 19-20, at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center.

Laker results -- 200 individual medley: 4. Melissa Paakh 2:11.00...Diving: 13. Kyley Foster 292.65...100 butterfly: 1. Paakh 56.38 (All-American Consideration)...500 freestyle: 23. Libby Larson 5:28.07.

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