Swimmers fly to fourth at True Team state

The Magic showed off their talent and depth Saturday, finishing fourth at the True Team state meet. (File photo)
The Magic showed off their talent and depth Saturday, finishing fourth at the True Team state meet. (File photo)

It might be true that there is no place like home. But for the Monticello girls swimming and diving team, the pool at the University of Minnesota sure is a close second.
The Magic, who have qualified for meets in that pool year in and year out over the last decade, turned in another fast performance at the U of M aquatic center, earning themselves a fourth place finish at the True Team State Meet.
It was really bittersweet,” said senior Anna Jones. “It was one of the last times we’ll swim in that pool. It’s a really fun meet, so much energy. We wanted to swim well, and a lot of us did.”
Coming in, the Magic were projected to be around fourth place. Coach Otterson was happy that the girls swam well enough to maintain that spot.
“We did the best we could,” said Otterson.
Otterson also noted that the Magic moved up in a handful of spots, which canceled out any of the races where the Magic might have dropped a little.
The highlight of the meet came from Amber Eckstein. The freshman entered the meet seeded third in the 100-yard breaststroke. She left it a champion. And a record holder.
Eckstein went out in 32.12 seconds and came back in 35.44 for a race-winning, record-setting time of 1:07.56.
Her season-best swim was good enough to win the race by over a full second, and it set the True Team State Meet record (held since 2008) by .11 seconds.
“It’s pretty cool considering that I’m only a freshman,” said Eckstein.
Making it even more impressive was that Eckstein felt fatigued the day before the race, and wasn’t sure what to expect at the state meet. But with a strong club swimming background, Eckstein is no stranger to big swims, and she stepped up when it mattered most on Saturday.
“She’s just a strong swimmer mentally,” said Otterson. “She went right out from the start. Sometimes she gets out a little slow and needs to catch up. This time she was the one to catch.”
Eckstein wasn’t the only freshman to shine on the big stage. Taylor Boraas had a big day on the diving board as she led the way for the Magic’s highest scoring group.
Boraas scored 301.05 points to finish in fourth place, just ahead of teammate Breazy Ciatti who was fifth with 300.85 points. Sophomore Abby Stockham wasn’t far behind, scoring 282.6 points to finish in tenth place.
“Taylor is doing amazing,” said Otterson of her highest finisher. “She’s really gotten the dives she does down, she just needs to move up her [degree of difficulty]. I think she has the ability to be a very amazing diver, a top diver in state even.”
Besides the Magic benefiting from the obvious importance of having depth and talent, they also benefited from getting off to a fast start, as it seems they always have.
The meet-opening 200-yard medley relay team of Anna Jensen, Eckstein, Paige Anderson and Jones turned in a time of 1:53.63 that earned them a tie for second and set the tone for the rest of the meet.
“I can’t imagine having a slow medley,” said Otterson. “It’s always been strong. All six years that I’ve been here. It’s important, because it’s setting the tone, showing the girls what we can do.”
From there, the seniors helped carry the meet. Paige Anderson turned in an impressive 1:01 in the fly. Anna Jensen neared the minute mark with a 1:02 in the back, and Anna Jones was very good in both individual events and relays, including the medley where she chased down the second-place team to earn a tie at the wall.
“It’s nice to see my seniors do so well,” said Otterson. “I think they are starting to learn that they have worked harder than they ever have before, and that we’ve asked a lot of them.”
Perhaps more importantly, they’re learning to mentally move past the tiredness and push themselves in big meets. Otterson said that despite not tapering at all for this meet, she didn’t hear any girls talk about being fatigued as they had at some past meets. The mental toughness combined with confidence inspired plenty of other top finishes for the Magic Saturday.
Eckstein finished fifth in the 200 IM, a good swim that helped pave the way for her record-setting swim later in the day. Jones was ninth in the 50-yard free, followed closely by Kylie Gaeth with a twelfth-place finish. Anderson finished sixth in the 100 fly, before Jones and Gaeth came back and finished seventh and ninth in the 100 free.
In the 500, Dina Kramer finished 30th but still stood out. The seventh-grader started swimming the 500 just three weeks ago, and has dropped ten seconds each time out. That trend continued Saturday when she dropped from a seed time of 6:19 to an actual time of 6:09. Anna Macki led the Magic in the event, finishing twentieth.
In the ninth event, the Magic continued to trend well in relays as Gaeth, Maree Smith, Anderson and Jones swam to a sixth-place finish with a time of 1:45.12. In the 100 back, Jensen’s time was good enough for fourth-place while teammate Smith also got into the top ten with a time of 1:04.64 that was good enough for ninth.
The second-to-last event was where Eckstein picked up the Magic’s lone victory of the meet. Teammate Courtney Skarie backed her up by tying for eighth place in the event. And in the final relay, Monticello finished eighth behind Gaeth, Emma Farnsworth, Smith and Anderson.
Now, with rising confidence, the Magic turn their focus to sections (Nov. 9 and 10 at Grand Rapids).
The Magic plan to hit it hard for the remainder of this week, then they’ll taper as they aim to send numerous swimmers to the state tournament for one more crack at their home away from home, the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
“I think we’re going to have a really fast section meet,” said Jones. “We’ve been working so hard this year.”