by Paul Rignell
In the weeks prior to the Class A state True Team swim meet Oct. 19 at the University of Minnesota, Monticello head coach Kristin Zalec had not etched that date in stone for her athletes.
One week before the state meet, she figured the Magic’s conference rivals from Big Lake would present the biggest threat that any team had posed in many years to topping Monticello at the True Team section event.
“They have a lot more depth than we have,” said Zalec, noting that her swimmers and divers will compete against Big Lake athletes again in State High School League section events Nov. 8 and 9 at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.
The rival Hornets indeed put up a good fight in the section True Team meet Oct. 12, also held at Sauk Rapids-Rice, and Big Lake totaled 1,063.5 points through 12 events to lead the host school by more than 130 in the standings.
Big Lake’s efforts there were only good for second place, however, as the Magic swimmers and divers left coach Zalec pleasantly surprised by winning the True Team section with 1,082 points.
“What they set their minds to, they’re going to accomplish,” Zalec said.
The graduation last spring of eight seniors from the varsity program, leaving this year’s team with only three incoming seniors and three juniors to take up the leadership, was a key reason why Zalec expected many of Monticello’s meets would be tighter and more competitive this fall. “We are very young,” she said.
Being thrilled that this year’s improving team continued the Magic’s tradition of reaching the state True Team meet, she focused not on their 10th-place finish among 12 teams at the U of M Aquatic Center but rather on the individual and relay feats which built their points.
Monticello sophomore Amber Eckstein placed third in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:07.81, and fourth in the 200 individual medley at 2:17.69.
Seventh-grader Alyssa Eckstein finished fifth in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:36.15. Zalec said that the younger Eckstein cut eight seconds from her previous best time in the event.
The Magic’s athletes scored sixth in several events.
Sophomore diver Taylor Boraas recorded a final total of 295.05 off of the boards for sixth place.
Senior swimmer Kylie Gaeth finished sixth in the 100 butterfly at 1:01.60 and senior Maree Smith got there in the 100 backstroke at 1:04.38.
Smith and Gaeth joined Amber Eckstein and eighth-grader Dina Kramer in placing sixth in the 200 medley relay at 1:56.43.
Gaeth finished seventh in the 50 freestyle with a time of 25.85 seconds, and she joined Smith, Amber Eckstein and Alyssa Eckstein in placing seventh in the 400 freestyle relay at 3:52.08.
Zalec says that she is always impressed by her swimmers performing so well at the True Team meets when earlier in those weeks they have worked their muscles harder than ever during the season before the “taper” period of practices. At that stage between the True Team events and the State High School League section and state competitions, the swimmers still work hard but at a lower-impact pace which allows their muscles to rebuild.
“The harder you work during the season, the better your ‘taper’ is going to be,” Zalec said.
Supporters who would like to cheer on the Magic program still in October may watch the junior varsity Mississippi 8 conference diving championships 5 p.m. Oct. 24 at Princeton High School, and the JV conference swimming finals 5 p.m. Oct. 25 at St. Michael-Albertville Middle School East.