The Magic swimming and diving team may not have had an ideal regular season.
But at the True Team section meet in Sauk Rapids on Saturday, the girls showed that they still know how to get it done at a big meet.
Monticello scored 1082 points, just 18.5 more than section rival Big Lake, to come away with their ninth straight True Team section championship.
“It was incredible,” said senior Kylie Gaeth. “It was so awesome.”
“It was fun,” added fellow senior Maree Smith. “We haven’t had as many wins as we wanted to have this year, so it was cool to win this one.”
The Magic entered the meet expecting a battle.
The Hornets, their biggest rival, had beat them at an invitational earlier in the year. Monticello had, however, bounced back with a dual meet victory over Big Lake a few weeks ago.
“We knew it was going to be super intense,,” said Gaeth. “Every point was going to matter, every swim was going to matter.”
For that reason, Coach Kristin Zalec was concerned when the Magic advanced just three divers to the scoring round, compared to Big Lake’s four.
“I didn’t think we had a chance after diving,” said Zalec.
But there was one big silver lining within the diving performance. Zalec was concerned that Maggie Oliverius may not be able to pull off either of the two dives necessary to be Monticello’s third scorer.
“Going into the meet, she didn’t have two reverse dives,” said Zalec. “If you fail two dives, you’re totally out, get zero points. She spent all week working on these reverse dives, never got it one time in practice. I thought we were done. But, she did them both. It was crazy, impressive.”
Oliverius placed ninth in diving, right behind teammate Paige Draack, earning Monticello 14 huge points. Combined with Draack’s performance and Taylor Boraas’ second place finish, the three Magic divers helped minimize the damage going into the swimming portion of the meet.
In swimming, Monticello knew they had the top swimmers to win some events. They didn’t know if they had the depth to tally up the points they would need, though.
In True Team, you get four entrances per event, meaning you need 16 swimmers for each relay event. To say depth is important would be an understatement.
While Zalec was worried about their depth, it proved to be a strength in relays.
The Magic won the opening 200 Medley Relay (Smith, Amber Eckstein, Dina Kramer and Gaeth) , as well as finishing their second, third and fourth teams higher than comparative teams.
“Medley relays came out and did really well,” said Zalec. “We have more depth in strokes than other teams do.”
From there, Monticello struck a perfect balance of strong at the top and deep throughout. Monticello won four individual events with Eckstein winning the 200 I.M. and the 100 Breaststroke (where she set a True Team section record), Gaeth winning the 100 Fly (and nearing closer to the state cut time) and Smith winning the 100 Backstroke.
Monticello’s sixth win of the day came in the closing 400 Free Relay (Gaeth, Alyssa Eckstein, Smith and Amber Eckstein), where the Magic shut the door on their ninth straight section title.
“It was exciting,” said Zalec. “It was an overwhelming, emotional meet. Our swims weren’t the best, but [the girls] did what they had to do.”
With the win, the girls get the chance to compete in one of their favorite meets, the True Team state meet at the University of Minnesota.
“It’s such a fast pool and hyped up atmosphere,” said Zalec. “They love this pool.”
It also gives them a chance to build confidence, as they finish the toughest portion of their training and prepare for sections in early November.
“It gives you experience,” said Smith. “And we all swim well [at the U], so it gives us confidence for sections.”
The True Team state meet begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at the U of M.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com