Swim and Dive: Brainerd girls top Alexandria in CLC battle; Cardinals aim for growth as season progresses
The Brainerd girls swim and dive team earned a close 102-84 win over Alexandria in a conference battle on Thursday. Alexandria head coach Crysta Krause says she's seen the team grow so far this season.
ALEXANDRIA - Two Central Lakes Conference foes, the Brainerd Warriors and Alexandria Cardinals, met in a meet on Thursday, in Alexandria, which went Brainerd’s way, 102-84.
“I thought we swam really well,” Alexandria head coach Crysta Krause said. “Obviously, we lost by 18 points but we kept with them. Brainerd has a really strong lineup with a lot of really excellent divers and seniors on their team this season. There were a lot of close, fun races to watch.”
Junior Jisella Haskamp led the way for the Cardinals on Thursday with two individual first-place finishes in the 50 and 100 freestyle and first-place finishes in two relays. Haskamp was on the 200 freestyle relay team that earned a first place finish, along with seniors Brooklyn Millward, Emma Bugher and Alaina Guenther (1:45.47) and was on the 400 freestyle relay with Guenther, Millward and sophomore Grace Urke (3:50.63).
“I didn't get my best times, but I still felt competitive, especially with my teammates there to push me,” Haskamp said.
In addition to Haskamp’s top finishes, Alexandria had individual first-place finishes from Summer Overland (200 freestyle, 2:05.83 and 500 freestyle, 5:39.79), Urke (200 IM, 2:23.14) and Rayna Holm (100 backstroke, 1:07.84).
“In practice, I try to work on my endurance,” Overland said. “I tried to keep the pace with some rest in between at practice. I try to work on my turns along with everything else.”
Thursday’s meet wasn’t the first time Alexandria and Brainerd were at the same competition this season. Both teams were at the West Fargo Border Battle on Sept. 17. Alexandria finished third out of 13 team, and Bemidji placed second behind winner West Fargo Sheyenne. Alexandria won the 2021 CLC Championship and Brainerd finished fourth.
Krause said that the Cardinals have recently been without some athletes due to illness.
“We had a little rough patch in last week with illness,” Krause said. “So that's been a little tough.”
Alexandria is now 4-3 this season and is 2-3 in meets against CLC conference opponents, while Brainerd (Class AA) is 5-0 and 4-0 against CLC opponents.
“We lost a lot of really good seniors last season, so we’re trying to fill those spots and find new girls to move into those spots,” Krause said. “We’ve been working on it throughout the first few meets. They’re such a young team."
The Cardinals graduated 12 seniors from last year’s team that made its first-ever true team state appearance. The Cardinals also won the CLC title and the Section 6A title in 2021.
One of the athletes with returning experience from 2021 is Haskamp, who placed fifth at the 2021 Minnesota State High School League Class A Championships in the 100 breaststroke as a sophomore.
She, along with Urke and Millward, are the team’s returning athletes who were All-CLC athletes in at least one event last year. Junior Erica Johnson, Bugher, Guenther, and Overland were All-CLC honorable
mention athletes in at least one event in 2021.
As this season has progressed, Krause has seen a culture shift.
“I think the team culture has changed this year with trying to absorb all those new swimmers,” Krause said. “Finding that team dynamic is definitely coming around this last week. They're starting to find a groove with each other during practice, at meets, and we see some sort of single themselves out for different spots within the lineup.”
Krause said there are multiple young athletes who have made big strides since the start of the season started.
“(Freshman) Ning Zhang has made a lot of progress. She was one that when we started the season, you can see potential but just hadn't had the times yet,” Krause said. “She's starting to really come into her own in the sprints and the 100 breaststroke. That's been a lot of fun to see. (Freshman) Ella May had practically no experience before she came in and now knows all the strokes, turns and starts. She has just come a long, long way, which is really fun to see.”
Zhang swam in three varsity events and one junior varsity event on Thursday and finished in fourth place (1:57.22) in the varsity 200 freestyle relay with Overland and juniors Elise Maagard and Amelia Tucker.
May swam in four junior varsity events on the night as well and finished in fourth in the junior varsity 200 freestyle relay with sophomore Emilee Underwood and fellow freshmen Addison Chlian and Samara Ahrendt (2:48.45).
Haskamp said that with a young team, improving their strokes and times has been a big focus so far this year.
“We’re confident that we’re improving,” Haskamp said. “We see a lot of our times drop in each meet. We practice a lot on finishes along with other things.”
Overland is confident that the team can grow as the season progresses.
“I think we're really good about having a positive mindset,” Overland said. “A lot of the girls just try to keep a positive mindset.”
As for personal goals, Overland wants to break a record.
“My individual goal is to try to get the school record in the 500 free,” Overland said. "I was three seconds off of it last year. I’m kind of hoping for that.”
The Cardinals are back in the pool at Discovery Middle School at 6 p.m. on Sept. 29 against Sauk Centre.
“I think the goal going forward is to start trying to place people in some of those A and B relays looking ahead to sections and true team and the conference meet,” Krause said. “We've been moving girls around a lot in those. We’re trying to kind of settle on who's maybe going to be ending up where.”
Brainerd 102, Alexandria 84
ALEXANDRIA TOP-FIVE FINISHES - 200 MEDLEY RELAY - Grace Urke, Emma Bugher, Elise Maagard, Rayna Holm, 2nd, 2:00.83; Cora Baumgartner, Ning Zhang, Lucy Kieffer, Josie Hergott, 5th, 2:20.58; 200 FREESTYLE - Summer Overland, 1st, 2:05.83; Emma Bugher, 4th, 2:14.51; 200 IM - Grace Urke, 1st, 2:23.14; Rayna Holm, 3rd, 2:31.20; 50 FREESTYLE - Jisella Haskamp, 1st, 25.05; Alaina Guenther, 5th, 27.12; 1-METER DIVE - Lauren Hornstein, 4th, 189.85; Erica Johnson, 5th, 170.25; 100 BUTTERFLY - Alaina Guenther, 2nd, 1:06.81; Elise Maagard, 5th, 1:10.10; 100 FREESTYLE - Jisella Haskamp, 1st, 55.29; Brooklyn Millward, 3rd, 57.34; 500 FREESTYLE - Summer Overland, 1st, 5:39.79; Izzy Rodriguez, 5th, 6:39.11; 200 FREESTYLE RELAY - Brooklyn Millward, Emma Bugher, Alaina Guenther, Jisella Haskamp, 1st, 1:45.47; Elise Maagard, Ning Zhang, Amelia Tucker, Summer Overland, 4th, 1:57.22; 100 BACKSTROKE - Rayna Holm, 1st, 1:07.84; Brooklyn Millward, 3rd, 1:08.98; 100 BREASTSTROKE - Grace Urke, 2nd, 1:14.70; Emma Bugher, 3rd, 1:15.60; 400 FREESTYLE RELAY - Alaina Guenther, Brooklyn Millward, Grace Urke, Jisella Haskamp, 1st, 3:50.63; Cora Baumgartner, Rayna Holm, Amelia Tucker, Summer Overland, 4th, 4:12.92