Before the Mankato West girls swim season began, head coach Dave Burgess boldly suggested that the 2013 edition of the Scarlets just might be the best team he’s ever coached.
On Saturday, at the state Class A true team meet, the West swimmers went out and proved it.
The Scarlets traveled to the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center for the 12-team meet and wound up finishing second in the state with 1,782 points. West has been to true team state nine of the 10 years since it began, and the runner-up effort equaled its highest finish from 2004.
The true team concept was adopted by the state’s coaches as a way to measure the true depth and overall strength of a swim team as opposed to the squad that is simply carried by a handful of superb swimmers. At true team, every school has four entrants in every event, and all of them score points, regardless of where they place.
“We all know what Danielle and Chantal Nack and Maddie Bacon can do for us,” Burgess said of his top-line swimmers. “But at true team we saw that our D and C and B swimmer and relays are pretty good, too. It was the strength of our JV swimmers that allowed us to do so well.”
Eighth-grader Hannah Patenaude ended up scoring 90.5 points for the Scarlets, sophomore Jacelyn Hanson had 79, freshman Kirsten Peterson scored 68.5, junior Une Johnson tallied 67.5, seventh-grader Brenna Bartell scored 62 and even junior diver Ashley Dungan scored scored 38 points. Most of those names don’t make it into the newspaper very often, if at all.
At this year’s state meet the coaches changed the awards procedure. Instead of giving individual medals to the top eight finishers in each event, they awarded medals to all of the swimmers on the top three teams.
“That’s a change I really like,” Burgess said. “We have a senior captain named Anna Lieske who can’t get into our varsity lineup, but on Saturday she swam in a couple of events for us and helped us finish second.
“She’s been a big part of our team, and she’s going to end her final season with a state medal. That just doesn’t happen under the regular state high school league system.”
Burgess said the runner-up finish at the true team meet doesn’t mean the Scarlets will be able to do the same at the regular state meet.
“But it’s an indication that the potential is there,” he said. “It should give the swimmers the confidence they need to do well at state.”
Jim Rueda is the The Free Press sports editor. To contact him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call him a 507-344-6381.