By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Mankato West sophomore Madi Bacon will be the first to admit that she didn’t have a whole lot of choices when it came to selecting a high school sport.
She’s tall enough where she probably could have been a decent volleyball or basketball player but that simply wasn’t in the cards for the 10th-grader. She was born into a swimming family and was already treading water and working on her strokes at the age of three.
Now she has blossomed into one of the key members of the West swim squad and, on Saturday, helped the Scarlets finish third at the Big Nine Conference Championships at the Minnesota State pool.
“I started before I can even remember,” said Bacon, who has triathletes for parents and two older sisters who have also gone through the West swim program. “I’ve just always been around it.”
It’s not that her parents would have said no if she had decided to pursue a different sport, it’s just that swimming became familiar to her at such a young age she just stayed with it. West coach Dave Burgess is glad she did as Bacon was part of two Big Nine Conference records and added two more top-five finishes during Saturday’s meet.
“She’s really the workhorse of our team,” he said. “She does the (200-yard individual medley) early and then she does three events very close together at the end. She goes from the 200-free relay, right into the backstroke, then has one event off and comes back in the 400-free relay.
“That really takes a toll physically. You have to be in great shape to handle something like that and she is. She knows those are the events we need her in and that’s the way she trains.”
Bacon has set lofty goals for the rest of the year and intends to do everything she can to attain them.
“I want to get under a minute in the backstroke and place in the top-16 or top-8 at state. And I think both our 200 and 400-free relays have a chance to win state championships. That’s kind of what we’ve been working for all season.”
If Saturday’s meet was any indication, the Scarlets are on the right track. They won both relay events in record times (see accompanying story on Danielle Nack) and Bacon placed fifth in both the 200-individual medley (2;21.83) and the 100-backstroke (1:04.43.)
Chantal Nack also had a big day for the Scarlets. She won the 500-freestyle in 5:10.44, was second in the 200-freestyle (1:56.60) and was part of both record-setting relay teams.
West Senior Nicole Lohman did her part, swimming legs on the two winning relays and also taking seventh in both the 50-freestyle (25.78) and the 100-freestyle (56.16).
West’s Louise Dhuyvetter finished sixth in diving (294.35 points) and teammate Miranda Deatley was eighth (280.90) in the same event.
Mankato East/Loyola’s top event was the 200-free relay where the foursome of Jen Neufeld, Mackenzie Juberien, Amy Lange and Chandra Bouma clocked a 1:56.12.
Rochester John Marshall won the team title with 357 points. Rochester Mayo was second (313), West was third (277.5) and Mankato East/Loyola was 10th (54).
At the conclusion of Saturday’s meet, Mankato West’s Daniell Nack, Chantal Nack, Bacon and Lohman were each named to the All-Big Nine Conference team. Teammate Rachel Thate was an honorable mention pick.