When Kathy Walker stepped down as the head coach of the Alexandria girls swimming and diving team, Crysta Krause was asked to step up.

“It was a bit sudden,” Krause said. “My first thought was that I have a lot of work to do. But I’m really excited. I get to take over a program that’s had a lot of success. We have a good group of girls and it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Krause moved to Alexandria three years ago to become a teacher and work with Walker as an assistant coach. Before she moved to the area, she spent the previous eight years building a program from the ground up. Red Dragon Swimming is a club program in Moorhead that works with youth swimmers.

“It started with two swimmers in my first year,” Krause said. “Eight years later, when I decided to resign and go back to teaching, we had 175. It was so much fun to see the program grow and see the kids go through it.”

Krause was raised in a small town outside of Willmar. From a young age, she always wanted to swim.

“Growing up, I always loved the water. My parents couldn’t get me out of the lake.” Krause said. “I used to live on a farm outside of (Willmar) when I was younger. I didn’t officially join a team until I was in seventh grade.”

Krause swam at the varsity level for five years. After multiple state tournament appearances, she swam at Minnesota State University-Moorhead. She was a captain for two years before working with the Red Dragon Swimming program. Krause believes she brings the right experience to the table.

“For me, it’s about creating a culture of excitement,” Krause said. “Bringing that love for swimming for the girls, pushing them to bring their best to the table and being their best selves is what I want out of my time here.”

The upperclassmen on the Alexandria girls swim team have performed under two Hall of Fame head coaches in Mark Storhaug and Walker. For some in the program, this is their third head coach they have had during their careers.

“They’ve gone through a lot of coaching changes,” Krause said. “My hope is that I can bring some consistency. I’m not looking at retiring from coaching anytime soon, so I really want to be around for awhile and establish that. I think they have really taken these past few weeks in stride. Together, we’ve had a lot of fun with it and we know what we have to do to be successful. They’ve been really great.”

During her time with Walker, Krause was able to study someone who has coached at different levels for more than four decades. .

“Kathy and I complemented each other very well,” Krause said. “Her responses to swimmers when she was approached with problems is something I can take and learn from. We’ve shared with each other swimming knowledge too. Drills and sets she had are something that I can use that will help me be a better coach.”

After a fifth-place finish in the Section 6A tournament last fall, the Cardinals are looking to stay competitive. However, after a large group of seniors graduated, the team’s youth will be tested this fall.

“We lost a lot of really great seniors that made up a lot of the depth in the lineup from last year,” Krause said. “Just trying to fill those holes will be a challenge for us. We have some really great incoming seventh graders. We have a lot of really young talent to go with our top performers that are coming back, but getting depth is something we are figuring out.”

By the time she leaves, Krause would like to leave the Alexandria girls swimming and diving team the same way she left Moorhead.

“I would love to grow this program like I was able to help do in Moorhead with the Red Dragons,” Krause said. “Getting kids and families to buy into a program and stay is a goal of mine. We lose a lot of swimmers between the middle school and high school level. I think swimming at the high school level is intimidating, but it’s so much fun and it’s rewarding and I want to show people that.”