The Austin girls swimming and diving team is sending six athletes to the Class ‘A’ state meet this week. They include (back row, left to right) Helen Heimark, Merideth Fritz, Autumn Laury, and Lindsey McAlister; front row: Emily McAlister and Maddie Kinney. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

Packers are primed for state

Published 8:48pm Monday, November 12, 2012

The Packers will be busy at the Class ‘A’ state swimming and diving meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in St. Paul Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Austin is sending six athletes to state and they will compete in seven events — including all three relays.

Austin senior Helen Heimark will be swimming in her fifth state meet and she will be joined by a pair of seniors who are getting their first crack at the state meet. Emily McAlister will swim in the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay and her twin sister, Lindsey McAlister, will swim on all three of Austin’s state qualifying relay teams.

Emily made a surprise appearance on the 200-yard freestyle team as she had to fill in due to an injury to teammate Mikayla Finney at the Section 1A prelims. She found out less than hour before the event that she’d be swimming on the team, but she made her chance count.

“It’s fun to have people actually see that we’re pretty good swimmers,” Emily McAlister said. “I’ve never really sprinted with the big kids before, but it was pretty fun. A lot of it was adrenaline.”

Lindsey McAlister is thrilled to close out her swimming career at the state meet and she said she felt an obligation to help get everyone of her relay teams to state.

“I did really good and I was super happy that we made it to state,” she said. “We didn’t want to disappoint our team and we wanted to get to state. All three relays just had to cut off tenths of a second to get there.”

Austin’s other first-time qualifiers include junior diver Autumn Laury, junior Merideth Fritz, who will swim in the 100-yard butterfly and all three relays, and sophomore Maddie Kinney, who will swim on the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Laury put up her second best score of the season to get to state and she’s hoping to have another solid performance on Thursday’s preliminaries, which begin at noon.

“It’s gonna be exciting,” she said. “I’ll be nervous if I mess up, because they expect a lot out of you, but I’m just glad I made it in the first place.”

Kinney and her relay teammates are hoping to finish in the top-16 on Friday’s preliminaries, which begin at noon, so they can get a chance to swim on Saturday as well. Kinney is also looking forward to swimming in the University of Minnesota’s pool.

“Swimming with the big girls has been a big thing for me this year,” Kinney said. “I stepped up this year and finally reached a long term goal.”

Fritz just missed out on making it to state at the 100-yard butterfly last season, so she knew she’d have a good chance to advance this year. Now she’s hoping she can make her experience at state last year help her towards this year.

“(Our 200-freestyle relay) is faster than last year so it’s very possible and in reach to get to the second day,” Fritz said. “You wouldn’t think it makes that much of a difference going and watching (at state). But when you see how the meet is run, it takes a lot of the pressure off.”

For Heimark, the goal is to get back on the podium. As a sophomore, Heimark was on the 200-yard medley relay team that took sixth place and she hasn’t swam in the finals since.

She’s hoping that will change on Saturday, when the finals begin at noon.

“The feeling our medley relay had when we walked on the podium was such an incredible feeling of accomplishment. It would be nice to be able to experience that again,” Heimark said. “It’ll be nice to have someone right next to me at state, who’s going at the same time or even faster so I can fight to keep up with them.”

Heimark, who will swim in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays, is still shooting for the school record of 53.77 seconds in the 100-freestyle. Heimark hit a 54.2 in Wednesday’s prelims and if she would’ve repeated that time in the section finals, she would’ve been seeded fifth in the 100-freestyle.

Instead she enters the event seeded 12th.

“I think I can get down to a 53.77. That’s my goal and it’s the school record,” Heimark said. “On Friday I think I was just utterly exhausted from Wednesday night and my throat was really sore. I tried to psych myself up, but mentally and physically, I had no energy left. I’ve been sleeping a lot and hopefully I’ll be rested and well.”

SEEDINGS

100-yard freestyle: Helen Heimark is seeded 12th out of 26 swimmers with a qualifying time of 54.57.

200-yard freestyle: Heimark is seeded 16th out of 25 swimmers with a qualifying time of 1:59.49.

100-yard butterfly: Merideth Fritz is seeded 22nd out of 26 swimmers with a qualifying time of 1:02.09.

Diving: Autumn Laury finished second at the Section 1A meet with a score of 324.40. Laury’s best score of the season was a 350.2 at the Austin Invite Oct. 6.

200-yard medley relay: The team of Maddie Kinney, Emily McAlister, Lindsey McAlister and Fritz is seeded 15th of out of 26 teams with a qualifying time of 1:42.20.

200-yard freestyle relay: The team of Lindsey McAlister, Emily McAlister, Fritz and Heimark is seeded 15th out of 26 teams with a qualifying time of 1:42.20.

400-yard freestyle relay: The team of Fritz, Kinney, Lindsey McAlister and Heimark is seeded 21st out of 26 teams with a qualifying time of 3:44.76.

To advance to Saturday’s finals, all athletes must finish in the top-16 in the preliminaries. In swimming, the top-eight in the preliminaries will compete in the finals and the other eight will compete in the consolation finals Saturday


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