By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
In the final heat of the final event of her final high school swim season, Mankato West senior Nicole Lohman finally
got her state championship.
Lohman combined with Chantal Nack, Madison Bacon and Danielle Nack to win the 400-yard freestyle relay in a time of 3:32.63.
"It's unbelievable," a tearful Lohman said afterward. "I never gave up hope. When we took second in the 200 (free relay) I still believed we could win the 400. We just had to bear down and give it our all."
Lohman's state title was the culmination of a banner day for the Scarlets who won three championships and had two runner-up
performances. The effort gave West its highest finish ever at the state meet with a fourth-place total of 163.5 points.
Northfield won the Class A competition with 226 points. Sartell-St. Stephen was second (175) and Visitation was third (172).
"I think we did about as well as we could have," West head coach Dave Burgess said. "I thought we might have a shot at third for awhile but fourth place is awesome. We've taken fifth twice before so this is the best we've ever done."
Burgess said Bacon's split of 54.4 on the third leg of the relay was the key. That put the Scarlets about two seconds behind the relay from Sartell-St. Stephen and Danielle Nack made up the difference on the final leg.
"I wasn't sure what we were going to get out of Madi in that final relay because she was dealing with a sore hamstring," he said. "The
trainers had to clear he to swim and she came through with a great performance."
Bacon said there was no way she was going to hold back.
"It was the last race of the season, there was nothing to save yourself for," she said. "I just swam as hard as I could and Danielle did the rest. If you give Danielle a chance to win the race she's usually going to come through for you."
Bacon also finished 12th in the 200-individual medley with a time of 2:14.77 and placed 14th in the 100-backstroke (1:01.20). Lohman
finished 14th in the 50-freestyle (25.08) and was 15th in the 100-free in 55.11. Both swimmers combined with Chantal Nack and
Danielle Nack to take second in the 200-freestyle relay in 1:37.06. Northfield won the 200-free relay in 1:37.06.
"This is exactly the way I wanted to end my season," Lohman said, clutching her gold medal from the 400-free relay as it hung around her neck. "This makes all the practices worth it.
"It's a great feeling."