MANKATO — It might be a bit much to say this weekend’s competition at Tourtellotte Pool is the Super Bowl of area swimming, but it’s a pretty big meet for the area.
The three-day meet is dubbed the AB Finals and is one of three such meets taking place throughout the state this weekend. The competition at Tourtellotte draws 530 athletes from around Minnesota who are trying to qualify for the Minnesota Swimming Long Course State Championships scheduled for next weekend at the University of Minnesota.
Unlike many summer events, participants must do more than just plunk down their entry fee in order to participate in Mankato. For the AB finals, swimmers must have achieved qualifying times in order to compete.
Their times must meet a minimum of the ‘B’ standard in each even they want to swim and be no faster than the state standard (champ). Hence the name — only swimmers who have met the ‘A’ or ‘B’ standard can race.
It is the crowning summer meet for the local Mankato Mantas’ Swim Club, which comes together en masse to host and compete in the event. This years Mantas program is 100 members strong, 31 of whom have qualified to race this weekend.
According to fifth-year head coach Alex Lindstrom, the athletes range in age from 8-18 and many of them swim year round. The program’s official motto pretty much sums it up: To provide each athlete with the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
Although the overwhelming majority of the swimmers come from Mankato, North Mankato and Eagle Lake, there are some members from neighboring communities. Ashley Lager, 18, of St. Peter is one such competitor. She’s wrapping up her Mantas career this summer as she prepares to enroll and swim for Gustavus Adolphus College in the fall.