The Hatchet swimming girls started out this year with the loss of top performer Lauren Hilt to a family move, but they never let that get in their heads.
They dedicated themselves in a way that impressed long-time coach Theresa L’Esperance like none before them.
It paid off with a fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay in a time nearly a second faster than the 2nd-place THS squad from 2003.
“It has been 12 years since our only other relay podium performance,” L’Esperance said. “The relay of (Morgan) Weber, (Shelby) Benaszeski, (Mikhayla) Kleich and (Rachel) Dallman swam a 1:41.16, good enough for a 4th place finish. The 2003 runner-up winner swam a 1:41.96!
“This year’s times were unbelievably fast! Weber swam a season-best lead off, and Kleich set a personal best in her leg. Benaszeski and Dallman swam close to their best times for the podium finish!
“We suffered losses to Ladysmith during the season, but we knew the ultimate goal was the last meet of the year – not a dual meet, not the GNC Championship, not sectional, but the state meet. Both relays proved that dedicated hard work, a strong commitment to team and the confidence in their ability; and provided the girls with a medal for one relay and a new school record for the other. At state, our relays beat both Ladysmith’s 200 and 400 relays and Lakeland’s 400 free relay!”
The 200 free team edged out Whitefish Bay by 3/100ths of a second.
The 400 free squad of Baylee Dallman, Kleich, Katy Volz and R. Dallman placed a solid 8th and set a school record of 3:44.03.
This was a total team effort,” L’Esperance said. “Baylee Dallman led the team off with a personal best ever, 57.29 split. Then Kleich also swam a personal best 55.97! Katy Volz swam her second best time of the season, a 55.64 for the third leg, and Rachel Dallman swam a solid performance – her 2nd-fastest time – of a 55.13. Team totals came to a new standard of 3:44.03, which was previously held by B. Dallman, R. Dallman, Kleich and former swimmer Lauren Hilt (3:44.22).
“I couldn’t have been more proud of this 400 Free relay. They worked so hard all season. They knew it would take the whole team to make the necessary adjustments needed to make up the missing element of the Hilts in the pool. Every day in practice, the goal of making it to state was ever present in their minds. The loss to Ladysmith during the dual season was just a glich, the bigger goal of state was more important.
R. Dallman ended up 12th in the 50 free at :25.35, just off her season-best of :25.27, and 14th in the 100 free in :55.79, just slower than her best of :55.71.
“I could not have felt more proud with this group of athletes than over any others I have coached in 32 years!” L’Esperance concluded.