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Eklund swims to Class A state

Freshman Hannah Eklund swims in the 100 breaststroke during the Section 6A finals on Saturday afternoon. Eklund helped the Cardinals to a fourth-place finish and earned a spot at state in the event by finishing in 1:09.40 to qualify under the time standard of 1:10.11. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Freshman Hannah Eklund has been swimming at the varsity level for Alexandria since 7th grade, and it seemed only like a matter of time before she earned her first state tournament appearance.

Eklund doesn’t have to wait any longer after making that a reality on Saturday afternoon. She was one of five girls who met the time standard in the 100 breaststroke to qualify for the state meet that runs November 18-20 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

“I felt like I could make it, not easily, but I felt I was close and if I had good competition I could get out there and make that cut time,” Eklund said. “At first I didn’t know what the cut time was, but then I looked up and saw my parents and my coaches. They were all yelling, so I was pretty sure that I made it.”

Swimmers needed to touch the wall in less than 1:10.11 to qualify for state through the time standard. She did that by finishing in 1:09.40, while Johanne Kolbak of Melrose set a new section record with her time of 1:05.90 to lead a torrid group of swimmers in the event.

“We waited a long time in today’s contest to have somebody qualify, so we were happy for Hannah,” Alexandria head coach Mark Storhaug said. “She’s been right there on the cusp of qualifying for the last couple of years, and I’m glad she finally broke through. She had a great swim in the finals and improved on her time again from the prelims, so we’re off and running to the state tournament next meet.”

Eklund was one of a handful of Alexandria swimmers to make the podium with top-eight finishes during the 6A finals at the Discovery Middle School pool. The Cardinals finished fourth as a team with 232 points as Sartell ran away with the event with 479 team points. Melrose was second at 377 and Sauk Centre edged the Cardinals with 291 points.

“We’ve been kind of playing cat and mouse with Sauk Centre all year long it seems like,” Storhaug said. “They beat us in the dual. We beat them in the true team. Now they beat us back in the section meet, but overall I’m very happy with today’s meet. It ran smoothly and the kids did well.”

Eklund added another top-eight finish by taking sixth in the 200 IM in 2:20.67. She was also part of the 200-medley relay team of Kate LeBrasseur, Mikayla Meece and Macy Hatlestad that took fifth in 1:58.27. Jenna Kremer added a seventh-place finish in the diving competition with 294 points.

Senior Megan Bristow capped off her career with two top-eight finishes. She was fifth in the 200 freestyle (2:05.55) and fourth in the 500 freestyle (5:36.89). Storhaug said the Cardinals were hoping Bristow could maybe sneak into the state tournament through the time standard, but she didn’t quite make the mark of 5:26.36.

“She made a bold effort,” Storhaug said. “She tried to go out a little faster today. She knew she had to hold some pretty fantastic splits to make the cut time, so she went out and went after it, but she just didn’t quite have it at the end to hold up the back end of her race at that speed. She tried it and more power to her, she just didn’t quite have it.”

Madalyn Winger joined Bristow in the 500 freestyle finals as she took sixth in 5:44.72. The 200 freestyle relay team of Heidi Moe, Jaylen Olson-Rodel, Bristow and Winger took fifth in 1:45.44 and the 400 freestyle relay team of LeBrasseur, Olson-Rodel, Bristow and Winger wrapped up the meet with a fourth-place finish in 3:51.29.

The Cardinals will now turn their attention toward cheering for Eklund as she heads to state in what will be an exciting opportunity for a swimmer with a lot of years ahead of her.

“I would like to drop some more time, try my best and have some fun with it,” Eklund said. “I’m only a freshman. I have a few more years left, so I’m excited. I’ll try my best and see what happens.”

Eklund worked hard to make it to state. With a little more work, it could be the start of many trips to the state meet before her career in Alexandria is over.

“One would think so,” Storhaug said. “You just have to continue doing what you’re doing or probably trying to do more than what you’ve been doing. She needs to continue to get stronger. She’s going to have to go faster, going to have to do more strength training in the off-season just to keep up with her competition. It’s tough to make the state qualification time. It seems like it gets lower every year, so you have to keep getting better every year, too.”

SECTION 6A SWIM MEET TEAM STANDINGS – 1. Sartell – 479; 2. Melrose – 377; 3. Sauk Centre – 291; 4. Alexandria – 232; 5. Rocori – 165; 6. St. Cloud Apollo – 164; 7. Holdingford – 144; 8. Little Falls – 118; 9. Albany – 106; 10. Morris-Minnewaska – 82; 11. St. Cloud Cathedral-St. John’s Prep – 76

ALEXANDRIA TOP-16 FINISHES – 200 MEDLEY RELAY – LeBrasseur, Eklund, Meece, Hatlestad – fifth, 1:58.27

200 FREESTYLE – Bristow – fifth, 2:05.55; Winger – 13th, 2:07.13

200 IM – Eklund – sixth, 2:20.67; Meece – eighth, 2:27.64

50 FREESTYLE – Olson-Rodel – ninth, 26.30

DIVING – Kremer – seventh, 294 points; Rachel Kriese – 14th, 247.30 points

100 BUTTERFLY – LeBrasseur – ninth, 1:05.00

100 FREESTYLE – Olson-Rodel – 10th, 57.42; Moe – 16th, 1:00.32

500 FREESTYLE – Bristow – fourth, 5:36.89; Winger – sixth, 5:44.72; Meece – 11th, 5:47.29

200 FREESTYLE RELAY – Moe, Olson-Rodel, Bristow, Winger – fifth place, 1:45.44

100 BACKSTROKE – LeBrasseur – 11th, 1:06.03; Bailey Serum – 12th, 1:06.25

100 BREASTSTROKE – Eklund – fifth, 1:09.40; Hannah Lindgren – 13th, 1:16.67

400 FREESTYLE RELAY – LeBrasseur, Olson-Rodel, Bristow, Winger – fourth, 3:51.29

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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