The Alexandria girls swimming and diving team was looking to end the night on a positive note going into the final event against perennial power Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday.
Alexandria senior Jadeya Peterson was swimming the anchor on that 400 freestyle relay team after McKenna Horan, Brienna Timm and Addison Rodel kept her within striking distance. Peterson had some ground to make up on Sartell’s Janie Martin, but Peterson did it, edging Martin at the wall and giving the Cardinals a second win on the night in a time of 4:02.16.
“I just wanted to beat them and make it for my team and get that first place that we deserved,” Peterson said. “I felt like my team put a good foundation together for us. They put it all in place for me, and I just had to finish it.”
In a meet like this, those smaller victories are important. Sartell is one of the top Class A programs in Minnesota, and the Sabres swam like it on Tuesday. They won the meet 120-66, taking wins in every event but that 400 freestyle relay and the 100 backstroke. Horan, a sophomore for the Cardinals, won that in 1:05.64.
“We were pleasantly surprised by a lot of the swims tonight,” Alexandria head coach Kathy Walker said. “It’d be really easy to look at a meet like this with the score, but we took away a lot of real positives. We had a lot of season-best times and people who got out of the water and said, ‘That race wasn’t so bad,’ because they had never tried it before.”
Walker uses a meet like this against Sartell early in the season to get some athletes into events they have never swam before. The idea is to challenge the girls. Get them out of their comfort zone and maybe find a niche they didn’t even know existed.
Walker said the program has 40 athletes in grades 9-12. That’s the most the Cardinals have had during her tenure, a good problem to have. Slowly but surely, the Cardinals are making strides from where they have been in recent years.
“We went against Melrose the first meet of the season. We’ve lost to them by 20 or 30 points. I told the kids, whatever happens don’t let them exhibition against us. We tied them,” Walker said. “We went against St. Cloud Tech and lost by four points. Last year, we lost by 25, so we’re making a lot of progress in that right direction.”
Coaches like to see that in any season, but the fact the Cardinals are doing it with a predominantly young lineup gives coaches some confidence for the future. All 11 of the swimming events for Alexandria featured at least one 8th-grader or freshman in the varsity lineup.
“I think they have a bright future ahead of them, and I feel like they can do so much more beyond even this year,” Peterson said of those underclassmen. “They know how to work hard, and they know how to get where they need to be.”
Peterson and Rodel are a couple of the seniors who help anchor this Cardinals team.
“Us as seniors, we try to just be role models for the younger students and lead by example,” Rodel said. “Work hard in practice, and that kind of correlates to meets. That’s working hard all around -- weight room, pool, dry land. Making sure we set a good example so next year for those younger students who have to step up into a leadership position, they know what to do.”
The Cardinals are seeing steps in the right direction so far this fall season. Even in the midst of a lopsided loss like the one against the Sabres, Walker likes what she sees in and out of the pool from this group.
“The leadership from our senior class, they are the first ones to look at these younger kids and say, ‘I know you’re uncomfortable. I know you’re sore and hurting, but that’s part of it.’ They’re the leadership that has really motivated those younger swimmers to want to improve and be better every single meet. The feel of the program is changing. There is much more improvement as a team and as individuals. It’s just a blessing, I think.”
SARTELL-ST. STEPHEN 120, ALEXANDRIA 66
ALEXANDRIA TOP-FIVE FINISHERS - 200 MEDLEY RELAY - McKenna Horan, Ashtyn Molesworth, Addison Rodel, Hattie Galloway - second, 1:59.59; Anna Dokter, Sidney Johnson, Savannah Overland, Brienna Timm - third, 2:05.73; 200 FREESTYLE - Halle Pease - fourth, 2:16.46; Grace Karrow - fifth, 2:17.96; 200 IM - Molesworth - second, 2:25.56; Galloway - third, 2:28.10; Rodel - fourth, 2:29.73; 50 FREESTYLE - Jadeya Peterson - second, 27.04; Sidney Johnson - third, 27.62; Timm - fifth, 28.00; DIVING - Christina Palmer - 140.25; Kaylee Meyer - 132.70; 100 BUTTERFLY - Molesworth - fourth, 1:09.42; Aleah Dokter - fifth, 1:14.50; 100 FREESTYLE - Horan - third, 58.82; Peterson - fourth, 58.86; Galloway - fifth, 59.09; 500 FREESTYLE - Summer Overland - fourth, 6:22.19; Morgan Stangler - fifth, 7:11.85; 200 FREESTYLE RELAY - Sidney Johnson, Galloway, Peterson, Molesworth - third, 1:48.60; Aleah Dokter, Timm, Staci Nohl, Karrow - fifth, 1:55.78; 100 BACKSTROKE - Horan - first, 1:05.64; Anna Dokter - fourth, 1:11.86; 100 BREASTSTROKE - Rodel - second, 1:17.52; Johnson - third, 1:18.18; 400 FREESTYLE RELAY - Horan, Timm, Rodel, Peterson - first, 4:02.16; Anna Dokter, Karrow, Nohl, Pease - fifth, 4:19.72