MOORHEAD — It’s been a historic season for the Moorhead Spuds girls swimming and diving team.
Last weekend, the Spuds claimed third place and shattered multiple school records at the Section 8AA tournament in Sartell. Furthermore, Moorhead sent the most swimmers to the Minnesota Class AA state tournament in school history. The state tourney is set for Thursday-Saturday at the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.
"They've worked really hard this season," Spuds head coach Thor Anderson said. "They won all their dual meets, won their invitationals and we did really well at sections. We took third there, but they put on a show. ... They just have to keep doing what they're doing. They've worked hard for where they're at. They've been pretty fearless in their approach. They're gonna face the best in the state, and I want the bar to be raised and want them to be excited they get to compete in the state championship."
At the section meet, Moorhead’s Arianna Hoff set a Sartell pool record and Moorhead school record in the 200-yard freestyle. Hoff swam the event in 1 minute, 53.87 seconds. She continued the trend in the 500 freestyle with a new Spuds school record and state-qualifying time of 5:09.04.
Moorhead capped the meet by sending the 400 freestyle relay team of Hoff, Janke, Rodgers and Ishaug to state with a swim of 3:35.95. That time was good for a Sartell pool record and Spuds school record.
The Spuds started the section championship meet strong. The 200-yard medley relay team of Ava Rodgers, Abbie Ishaug, Alayna Janke and Maggie Howe finished second with a time of 1:48.9 to qualify for the state tournament.
Janke (57.94 seconds) and Rodgers (58.53) finished 1-2 in the 100 butterfly and each qualified for state.
In the 100 breaststroke, Ishaug swam a school record 1:06.92 to earn a spot in state for the event.
"Alayna Janke and Abbie Ishaug were at state two years ago and that experience sparked where Ava and Maggie are and they had a teammate of theirs from the offseason from the (Northern Lights Swim Association) Marlins, Arianna, who helped a ton," Anderson said. "Those five girls have been trying to get to where we are for more than a few years. Last year we should have had a shot all together. I think the anticipation's been building and they have to keep their heads about them."
Moorhead went undefeated in dual meets this season, including a 99-87 victory over North Dakota state runner-up West Fargo Sheyenne.
"They've been super scrappy this season," Anderson said of his team. "Won some meets they shouldn't have won. They've been super scrappy in the competition, haven't gone into a competition and just laid down. They're super competitive and I think they're starting to get it."
There was no state meet to cap last year’s coronavirus-altered season. In an unorthodox season, the Spuds captured the section tournament in unique fashion. The altered section meet featured two separate four-team events and scores took longer than usual to tally. Due to that, the Spuds didn’t know they won the section championship until the following day.
Anderson said having a normal season this year has been good for the team.
"It's certainly been a lot of fun to train the way that we intend to and be able to be a complete team again," Anderson said. "During the pandemic we had different practice schedules for different groups. We're able to be a team again, it's been a lot of fun. It's obviously been something we missed during the pandemic."
The Spuds will look to build on last season’s postseason success against a loaded state tournament field.
Moorhead holds the 12th-fastest seed time in three events heading into the preliminaries: the 200 medley relay (1:48.83), the 200 freestyle (Hoff — 1:53.87) and the 400 freestyle relay (3:35.95).
Minnetonka has the fastest seed time in the 200 medley relay (1:48.83) and 400 free relay (3:27.32). The top seed time in the 200 free belongs to Katie McCarthy of Edina, 1:49.51.
Hoff possesses the 13th-quickest seed time in the 200 freestyle. Edina’s McCarthy has the top time of 1:49.51.
Janke (57.94 seconds) and Rodgers (58.23) boast the 14th- and 19th-fastest seed times, respectively, entering prelims in the 100 butterfly. Claire Reinke of Wayzata has the top seed time of 53.97.
Ishaug claims the 15th-quickest seed time in the 100 freestyle (53.73) and 17th in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.92). She’s about three seconds back of the 100 freestyle fastest seed time of 50.67 belonging to Haley Zelen of Shakopee. Eden Prairie’s Caroline Larsen has the top seed time of 1:02.36 in the 100 breaststroke.
"We're facing some stiff competition," Anderson said. "I want them to go compete like they did at sections. I want them to compete like they did in all the tough meets this season. If they do that, we're gonna be happy with the outcome."
Preliminaries for Class AA diving are slated for 6 p.m. Thursday and Class AA swimming prelims begin at 6 p.m. Friday.
Both swimming and diving finals are scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.
Minnesota state girls swimming and diving tournament
When: Thursday, Nov. 18, through Saturday, Nov. 20
Where: University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center, Minneapolis
Tickets: Prelims $7 for both adults and students; finals $10 for both adults and students; available for purchase at mshsl.org/tickets
Notes: Tickets are sold online only; masks/face coverings required at event