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Girls' swimming and diving: Opdahl repeats at champ at Willmar Invite

Bridget Opdahl defended her 50 and 100 free titles for the second time at the Willmar Invitational, swimming to first place in both events by less than a second over Amanda Warzecha of Melrose.

Opdahl, a senior for the Minnewaska Morris Gators, swam to a 25.29 in the 50 free, 0.5 seconds ahead of the Dutchman swimmer, then swam a 55.78 for a 0.9-second win.

Despite the two victories, the Gators finished seventh out of seven teams in the invitational.

"We realize this year will be a rebuilding year," said head coach Linda Hoffmann. "I thought the swimmers did an outstanding job. We had some swims where girls [improved on] their personal best times from a year ago, after only nine days of practice, especially 8th grader Agnes Dieter in the 100 backstroke, Amanda Thompson in the 100 fly and Arianna Maras in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke.

"Also, after a four-year layoff from swimming, senior Kendra Harpstead got back in and swam very well."

Senior Julie Helander finished ninth in diving and the Gators' 400 free relay team of Halleigh Thompson, Bridgitte Weaver, Colleen Rutledge and Opdahl finished eighth. Along with Opdahl, Weaver's times in the 100 and 200 free events qualified her for the section meet.

Melrose was first at the Invite with 570 points, followed by Bemidji at 461, Willmar 412, St. Cloud Tech 353, Sauk Centre 286, Montevideo 133 and Minnewaska-Morris at 109.


Swimming at less than full strength, the Gators struggled against Montevideo, falling 116-69 as senior sprinter and diver Helander was out with a collarbone injury and sprinter Paige Hawkins was out with a viral infection.

"Two people doesn't seem like a lot, but they represent eight events that could have scored points in," said Hoffmann. "Though the score looks lopsided, many races were inches apart between first, second and third."

Opdahl again set the pace for the Gators, finishing first in the 100 fly with a time of 1:02.00, breaking the Minnewaska record of 1:02.41 set in 1999 by Erika Danielson.

Opdahl came up just short of the record in the 200 IM as well, as she swam a 2:25.75. That record, also set by Danielson, stands at 2:23.85.

"I was pleased with our poise in our close races," Hoffmann added. "In our lineup, I had many 8th and 9th grade swimmers in varsity events. We had good finishes for a young team.

"The highlight was 9th grader Emily Edmunds coming from behind in the 100 fly and out touched a Montevideo swimmer, dropping six seconds from the previous meet," she said. "It shows to the coaches that never-say-die attitude, and we like that from a young and promising swimmer."