Cardinals go the extra mile to make up for lost time

Athletes from the Alexandria boys swim and dive team are working hard, hoping for the chance to add to their resume as one of the top Class A programs in the state if they can get back in the pool.

Alexandria's Thomas Williams swims the backstroke at the section meet on Feb. 22, 2020. Williams is one of the seniors for the Cardinals who is working to stay ready right now in hopes of leading Alexandria to another big season in the pool if winter sports are allowed to resume. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

The Alexandria boys swimming and diving team is among Minnesota Class A’s best. After finishing fifth in last year’s state meet, the Cardinals are looking forward to another promising season. That is if they can get into the pool.

The COVID-19 pandemic has Minnesota high school sport on pause, and the Alexandria swimmers and divers are no exception. Instead of practicing in the water, the Cardinals are finding ways to get better alone and on land.

“We log onto Google Meet, and our coaches lead us through workouts while we are at home,” senior Thomas Williams said. “They perfect our technique and help us throughout this whole process. That’s just the swim team workouts. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the school has a half-hour workout that we all do. Those are led by the athletic trainers at the high school.”

The boys swimming and diving program has reached consistent success over the last handful of years because of the work the Cardinals are willing to put in. That has continued even with the challenge of not being able to get in the pool.

“Whenever we do those dry-land meets, we are always talking about how excited we are to get this season started,” junior Nicolas Welle said. “Everybody is working as hard as they can right now to be ready when we get back in the pool...We want to prove to people that just because we were out for a long time, it doesn’t mean we can get slapped in the face. We’re going to be a tough team to beat.”


Like many athletes, the Alexandria swim team is dealing with the emotions of not knowing exactly how their season will play out as far as opportunities to compete.

“It’s my senior year, and I wanted to cap off my high school career with a full season,” Williams said. “A lot of my teammates felt the same way. We all know that it’s what we have to do. I was happy that the state was doing stuff to help people with the Coronavirus, but it’s a bummer that we can’t swim right now. I hope that if we do our part, wear masks and social distance we can get back in the pool pretty soon.”

For some, it’s easier to block out the thought of the season being canceled altogether.

Torrey Olson-Rodel swims at the state meet on Feb. 29, 2020. Olson-Rodel is one of the returning swimmers with state experience for the Cardinals as they hope to get back into the pool and try for another top-five finish in Class A this winter. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“My goal has been to stay positive throughout all of this,” senior Torrey Olson-Rodel said. “I never considered not having a season because I don’t want that negativity to bring me down. My plan wasn’t to worry until I needed to. It looks like we are going to have a season, so I just want to be ready for whenever it starts.”

This year is going to be the end of the road for some of the seniors on the Alexandria roster. But for Williams, he plans to continue his career at the collegiate level. When he found out there was going to be a season, he was not only excited for the chance for one last ride with his hometown friends, but also a chance to compete before he moves on.

“I’m very thankful that we are going to have a season because it would be very hard to go from my junior year to college without having swam in any meets,” Williams said. “I think we can keep our strength up and do those workouts to stay in shape, but not being in the pool and keeping my technique would be especially hard. It’s always different swimming in meets compared to practice. I’m very hopeful we can get in the pool sooner rather than later.”


Once the shutdown ends, the Minnesota State High School League is ready to allow winter sports practices to start. Even though there’s still uncertainty around postseason competition, Welle is looking forward to getting back to normal.

“I’m excited for our seniors,” he said. “It’s their last year, and if we didn’t have a season, it’d be really sad for all of them. Not even just the seniors, but all of us. We’re thankful to get this year in whatever capacity we can. Hopefully, there is a state tournament to compete for because we have unfinished business.”

If the MSHSL does allow state tournaments, the bar for the Cardinals is set high. It’s been three straight years that Alexandria has finished in the top five of the team standings at state. The Cardinals want to build on that, both individually and as a group.

“The goal is to be better than I was last year. I think that’s everybody’s goal,” Olson-Rodel said. “I want to place in the top eight at state. I hope to see my teammates rise up too. These guys work hard, and I want to see them compete on that stage. We’re all going to have to step up to get back to state this year. We lost some talented swimmers from last year, but we are looking forward to proving what we can do again.”

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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