Packer swimmers are ready for state meet

Austin swimmers (left to right) Merideth Fritz, Helen Heimark, Heather Johnson and Mikayla Finney will represent the Packers at the Class 'A' state swimming and diving meet in Minneapolis Friday. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

The Austin 200-yard freestyle relay team knows a thing or too about stepping up to the task at hand.

The team, which includes sophomores Merideth Fritz and Heather Johnson, freshman Mikayla Finney and junior Helen Heimark, recently took five seconds off its season’s best time to qualify for the Class ‘A’ state swimming and diving meet, which will be held at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis Friday and Saturday.

Johnson and Fritz are first-time state qualifiers and they’re looking forward to compete in the state’s biggest swim meet.

“I’m really excited to see what it’s all about,” Johnson said. “I was really shocked (when qualifying on Friday). At the beginning of the season I didn’t see myself going to state, and by the end of the season I’m there.”

Finney, a freshman who is making her second career trip to state, was especially motivated for the relay after she was disqualified in the 50-yard freestyle during Wednesday’s preliminaries.

While it was tough for her to watch the 50-yard finals and not swim in them, Finney put her all into the events she did swim in.

“It was devastating to get disqualified and it was sad,” she said. “But that just made more excited to compete in the relay and pushed me to go faster in all of my other events.”

This is the fourth time Heimark has qualified for state, and she also will swim in the 200-yard freestyle for the third time in her career at state.

“I’ve been there before (in the 200) and it was kind of part of the plan that I would go again,” Heimark said. “Last year I didn’t finish quite where I wanted to when I took 18th and this year I’m trying to finish in the top 16 so I can compete on Saturday.”

Heimark, who is also looking forward to swimming with her teamates at state, has stepped up as a leader for the Packers this season. Heimark is the only one on the team who can calm down Finney when she’s nervous and she also helps lift her teammates to faster swims in practice.

“We have a saying called ‘Helen time,’” Fritz said. “She really pushes us in practice. She’ll say ‘hey guys, join me. I’m going to go a little faster’ and we’ll try and keep up with her.”

All four of Austin’s relay members will be back next season and they’re hoping they can finish in the top-16 and get a chance to swim on Saturday.

No matter what, the team will always have a solid performance on Friday to look back upon.

“The immediate reaction (of getting to state) was incredible,” Fritz said. “It was a good team bonding moment, especially since we’ll all be back next year.”

The 200-yard freestyle relay team took fifth and beat the state cut time to make it to state and Heimark took third and beat the state cut time to make it in the 200-freestyle.

The Class ‘A’ swimming prelims will be held Friday at noon and the finals will take place Saturday at noon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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