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September 20, 2017

Rhinelander’s Makenna Winnicki competes in the 100-yard butterfly during a Great Northern Conference girls’ swim meet at Medford High School Thursday, Sept. 7. Winnicki won the event, and the 200 freestyle, as the Hodags claimed the dual 86-84. (Matt Frey/Star News)
Rhinelander’s Makenna Winnicki competes in the 100-yard butterfly during a Great Northern Conference girls’ swim meet at Medford High School Thursday, Sept. 7. Winnicki won the event, and the 200 freestyle, as the Hodags claimed the dual 86-84. (Matt Frey/Star News)
9/9/2017 7:36:00 AM
Hodag swimmers fend off Medford 86-84

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

Winning close races matters in swimming dual meets, regardless of the position. That tenet nearly came back to bite the Rhinelander High School girls' swim team Thursday.

The Hodags won five races and led wire-to-wire, but had to withstand a strong late surge to hold off Medford 86-84 in a Great Northern Conference dual at Raider Pool in Medford.

The key turned out to be one of the few close races the Hodags actually won, as Grace Heck held off a charging Avery Apfelbeck in the anchor leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay. That gave Rhinelander a 16-point lead with three events remaining.

The Hodags needed virtually all of that margin, as Medford went 1-4-5 in the 100 backstroke, 1-3-4 in the 100 breaststroke and 1-3 in the 400 freestyle relay.

"We told the girls that, that was what could not happen," RHS girls' swim coach Lindsay Byrka said, referring to losing the close races. "On paper, we should have easily taken that meet but every time there was a close race - from fighting for first to down to fighting for fifth - we lost out. I think there were three exceptions all night in however many races. We just seemed to just not be able to finish the race."

It appeared to be smooth sailing early on for Rhinelander after sweeping the top two spots in the 200 medley relay, and taking three of the top four positions in the 200 freestyle to jump out to an early 23-7 lead.

But the Hodags won only three events the rest of the way - and one of those was a dead heat between Rhinelander's Marisa McGuire and Apfelbeck for the win in the 50 freestyle.

"That was a really close race right there, and for Marisa McGuire to come in and tie for first (in the 50 free). If she wouldn't have done that, we would have lost the whole meet," Byrka said. "Then there were a couple of fifth places we were fighting for too - Rachel (Uhlarik) in the fly and Emily (McFarland) in the 500 - where if they wouldn't have gotten that fifth-place finish, the outcome would have been quite different."

Makenna Winnicki won both of her individual events for Rhinelander. The freshman took the 200 freestyle (2 minutes, 8.28 seconds) and the 100 butterfly (1:06.52). She was also part of Rhinelander's winning 200 medley relay team with Lisa Kennedy, Marissa Martin and Jenna Hawley.

McGuire, Taylor Macak, Hawley and Heck made up the winning foursome for Rhinelander in the 200 free relay. The key in that race proved to be Hawley's 27.25-second split in the third leg, which gave Rhinelander roughly a one-second advantage when Heck hit the water for the final 50 yards.

Hawley, a senior, came out on the wrong end of the second-closest race of the night, losing the 100 breaststroke to Medford's Aubrey Buskerud by 0.01 seconds.

Kennedy was a runner up for Rhinelander in the 500 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. Heck placed second in the 200 freestyle.

Maddie Quinn, Ella Schiek, Carly Seidl and McFarland took second in the 200 medley relay, while McGuire, Heck, Kennedy and Winnicki clinched the dual meet victory for Rhinelander with a runner-up finish in the 400 freestyle relay.

"There weren't a lot of best times across the board and there weren't a lot of great finishes," Byrka said. "But I think the girls know what they need to do now. We're going to use tonight as a learning tool, revamp our training and try to finish those races in practice so we can finish in a meet."

Byrka noted Seidl dropped eight seconds from her personal best in a fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle, Heck set a personal best placing third in the 200 IM and Ella Schiek posted her fastest time of the season in a fifth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.

Rhinelander improves to 2-0 in the GNC with the win. The Hodags return home today to host the Hodag Relays at the Heck Family Community Pool.

"That's always a fun meet," Byrka said, previewing today's meet. "This is our opportunity in the middle of the season to kind of play with the lineup and have some fun with the events. This is our home meet. This is our pride that we've got to standup. I'm hoping they can watch the energy Medford showed and bring that to Hodag Relays. There are some great teams. Marshfield's coming in and they beat (GNC favorite) Tomahawk in their relay meet, so we know they've got a loaded team. There are some really fantastic teams coming down. It will be fun and it will be a good relay for us. We are going to be down a couple of girls so we're really going to have to dig deep and fight hard for every single point."

Competition begins at 11 a.m.

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at

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