Packers poised for state pool play

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 14, 2002

Austin used to be an unfamiliar name at the State Girls Swimming and Diving Tournament.

That was then.

Now, the Packers' program has become synonymous with the season-ending meet thanks to the hard work and dedication from its swimmers and divers. Austin placed ninth in Class A as a team two years ago, and last year the Pack was fifth -- the best finish by an AHS squad in school history.

Email newsletter signup

This year's group of state qualifiers has even higher goals.

"I think we are going to surprise everyone," said junior sprinter Lauren Goettsch, one of three Packers advancing to state in four total events. "It's nice to know all of our hard work is playing off. It's nice to take in a few of the benefits and rewards of it all."

Austin qualified eight swimmers and its top diver for the 2002 state meet, which begins with diving preliminaries Thursday at noon at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. Junior Danielle Chapek starts on the 1-meter springboard with the fourth-highest qualifying score from sections. She placed sixth last year and will dive 11th out of 32 participants starting Thursday.

"I'm excited, I don't know why," Chapek said at practice Tuesday afternoon. "We fixed my approach and I had a good week of practice. I think it's good that I'm having a good week."

Last year Austin sent 10 swimmers to state in 11 total events. The Packer contingent making the trip this year numbers nine, and only eight of 12 events. Nevertheless, the kids are getting restless.

"Our goal is to place well at state," said sophomore Stacy Bjorlie, who set the school record while winning the 100 freestyle at last Friday's Section 1A finals meet at Ellis Middle School. "It's a very gratifying experience to be ranked among the best in the state."

Bjorlie's school-record time has her ranked atop the 100 freestyle field, and her personal-best time in the 200 free sets her second. Teammate Lindsay Lukes, a freshman, finds herself sixth in the 200 and seventh in the 100.

"Last year I was scared and I didn't know what to expect," Lukes said. "Last year I didn't handle it very well. I know now if you expect too much, you're dead.

"I'm not seeded as well this year and now I know what I have to work toward."

Of her four state events, Lukes did not swim in the 100 or the 200 freestyle relay last year. The 200 relay foursome of Lukes, senior Amanda Martin, Goettsch and Bjorlie is ranked second to Section 1 rival Red Wing by one-hundredth of a second, even after setting the school record.

The 400 free relay team of Martin, Meghan Walsh, Lukes and Bjorlie is also seeded second behind Red Wing, who set a section record last Friday.

Walsh, a senior, is the school record holder in the 200 individual medley but missed out on qualifying for the event after missing much of the regular season with a shoulder injury. She intends to savor this year's state experience.

"Since I only have three this year I want to make the most out of it," Walsh said. "I'm excited most for the butterfly, because it's so close and it's my individual event.

"I have really high goals set for myself."

Walsh hopes to break the 1-minute mark to improve upon her sixth seed in the 100 butterfly.

"It's kind of a barrier, it's always been a barrier between the best and the good swimmers," she said. "Breaking one minute would put me closer to the (school) record, and I kind of want it."

Walsh also swims the butterfly leg of the 200 medley relay, joined by Goettsch, junior Beth Goskesen and freshman Cassie Srock. Srock is making her first trip to state as a qualifier, and Goskesen will swim the lead leg of her only event.

"They know they have to put all their concentration into their one 50 they swim," Walsh said. "I know I treat each event as my only event. If you don't you're not fair to yourself.

"There's a lot of excitement. It's my last state meet, and I just want to have the best state meet I can have."

Goettsch, Bjorlie and Lukes each qualified for four events, and Walsh is a member of three races. Martin, a senior, is on both freestyle relays.

In addition to two relays, Goettsch swims individually in the 50 and 100 free. She is seeded second with her school-record time in the 50, and she is seeded sixth as one of three Packers in the 100 (Bjorlie, Lukes).

"We need to hold our ground in the higher positions and everyone else has to move up," Goettsch said. "I'm really excited to do all (four) of them.

"We know we've earned our spot."

Sophomore Nicole Novak's lone event is the 100 butterfly, in which she swam a personal-best time to qualify for state. Both Novak and Srock were alternates at state last year.

"There's a lot of expectations," said coach Lynn Gulbrandson. "I know they've set some pretty high goals for themselves. They've earned it.

"They're determined for better."

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at