Packer swimmers are ready for state

Published 8:14 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Members of the Austin swim team will be looking to make ripples at the Minnesota Swimming and Diving Meet this weekend at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center. They are from left: Mikayla Finney, Helen Heimark, Kelli Bednar and Averi Splinter and includes Brooke Johnson (not present). -- Eric Johnson/

The Packers swimmers have been in this situation before, but this time they’re expecting different results.

And that’s a good thing.

In the past, the Austin swimmers have usually peaked at the Section 1A meet and seen a dip in their times at the state meet. This time, they’re hoping they do their best at the Class ‘A’ state meet, which begins with preliminaries Friday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis at noon.

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In their past few state appearances, Austin swimmers have tapered towards sections, but this year they’ve tapered towards state.

“Every other year it’s like ‘wow we made it to state, it’s so exciting. Hopefully we’ll do as well (as we did at sections),’” said sophomore Helen Heimark, who will compete in the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 200-yard freestyle at state. “This year it’s more along the lines of ‘we know we can go faster and we know we can hold our spot.’”

Austin senior Averi Splinter, who will compete in both relays and the 100-yard butterfly at state, said she has already felt the difference in the pool.

Splinter, who is Austin’s first six-time state qualifier in swimming, is hoping for big things from the 200-medley relay, which was just a hair away from the school record at the Section 1A meet.

“This week we feel good still. We don’t have that feeling where we’re sore and everything hurts,” Splinter said. “We still feel good, and that (school) record is going to be ours. It’s our last chance, we have to get it. “

The 200-medley relay team, which also includes seniors Kelli Bednar and Brooke Johnson comes into the meet with the third best qualifying time —giving the group an excellent chance to race in Saturday’s finals, which begin at noon at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

“When we found out we were seeded third, we kind of had a moment,” Bednar said.

Austin head coach Lynn Gulbrandson said that the 200-medley team couldn’t be in much better shape heading into the state meet.

“They’ve got everything going in their favor,” he said. “They have the experience and they’re currently swimming the best they’ve ever performed. It’s a tight group and they’re really pulling together.”

Splinter took sixth in the 100-yard butterfly last season, but she’s a little more pumped up about her relay teams this time around. The 200-medley relay team took 13th last season.

“Doing good individually is awesome, but if the relay does good too, it’s going to be fantastic,” she said. “I’d say the relay is better, because you can share your success with the girls.”

While Austin’s three seniors are making they’re last trips to state — eighth grader Mikayla Finney is making her first trip. She is on the 200-yard freestyle relay team and she’s hoping to cut her split time from 26 seconds to 25.5 seconds.

Finney has improved a lot through the season and she has picked up some lessons from her elders.

“I’ve gotten faster because I’ve worked harder and it was just a privilege to be on (the 200-freestyle relay team),” she said. “I’ve picked up a lot of positive energy from (the team’s veterans). They’re energetic and fun loving and they’re really good. So I try to be as good as them and I try to get a lot of pointers from them.”

No matter what the result is at state, it will be the last time that Splinter, Johnson, who will also compete in the 100-yard backstroke, and Bednar swim for the Packers. The three have been staples on the Austin varsity team for years and it’ll be tough for them to say good-bye.

“I think it’s going to help in a way, because we know it’s our last chance, but it’s going to be sad,” Splinter said. “I’ve kind of been pushing it to the back of my mind, because I don’t want to think about it yet. Now it’s right there.”



200-yard medley relay: The Packers team of Brooke Johnson, Kelli Bednar, Helen Heimark and Averi Splinter have the third best qualifying time out of 27 teams in Class ‘A’ at 1:52.38. There are five teams with a qualifying time below 1:53, and Monticello is the clear favorite with a qualifying time of 1:50.16.

200-yard freestyle relay: The Packers team of Splinter, Mikayla Finney, Kelli Bednar, and Helen Heimark has the 14th best qualifying time (1:42.36) out of 25 qualifying teams.


200-yard freestyle: Heimark, a sophomore has the 21st best qualifying time (2:01.17) out of 30 qualifiers.

100-yard butterfly: Splinter, a six-time state qualifying senior, has the 10th fastest time (1:01.18) out of 21 qualifiers.

100-yard backstroke: Johnson, a senior, has the 19th best qualifying time (1:03.08) out of 28 qualifiers.