(The Rhinelander High School girls’ swim team poses with the Hodag Relays championship trophy after winning the six-team invitational at the Heck Family Community Pool Saturday, Sept. 9. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Jaylen Janssen competes in the 800-yard freestyle relay during the Hodag Relays girls’ swim meet at the Heck Family Community Pool Saturday, Sept. 9. Janssen was part of a runner-up finish for the Hodags in the event. Rhinelander placed first or second in nine of the 10 events en route to winning the meet.
9/12/2017 7:33:00 AM Hodags rule the relays Rhinelander wins five events, dominates home invite
The Rhinelander High School girls' swim team's performance Saturday at its home relay meet exceeded even coach Lindsay Byrka's wildest expectations.
The Hodags won five events - setting four meet records in the process - scored four runner-up finishes and sailed to a dominating championship in the Hodag Relays at the Heck Family Community Pool.
"I knew we'd probably hit the podium five or six times, but to have some of those relays where I couldn't stack the lineup being down a girl, almost two girls, it was tough to stay solid across the board," Byrka said. "We kind of got lucky (with the lineups the other teams fielded) and the girls I put in those events stepped up when they had to."
The Hodags stepped up to the tune of nine podium finishes in 10 events. The only race they didn't crack the top two was the 150-yard mixer medley - the eighth event of the day. Ironically, the Hodags mathematically clinched the meet championship with a fourth-place performance in that race. Rhinelander won the six-team meet by 36 points over Wausau West. Lakeland was third, 48 points behind the Hodags.
Rhinelander started the meet by winning a close race over Wausau West in the 200 medley relay as the team of Lisa Kennedy, Jenna Hawley, Grace Heck and Taylor Macak clocked in at 2 minutes, 1.42 seconds. Macak entered the pool for the anchor leg only 0.12 seconds ahead of Wausau West's Natasha Neumann, and turned in a 26.23-second freestyle split to give the Hodags the win by 0.78 seconds.
Rhinelander followed with one of its four runner-up finishes as Emily McFarland, Jaylen Janssen, Jaida Salaam and Rachel Uhlarik took second in the 800 freestyle relay, which Byrka said was the catalyst for the rest of the day.
"Those girls don't normally swim the 200 and that was kind of a last-minute thing (thinking) who do I have that can step up and deliver a solid race," she said. "Those girls all stepped up and made a second place for us. That was huge for us. That got the tide going early in the meet ... I think it lit a fire under the team and that kind of triggered that landslide effect where we just kept rolling."
The quartet of Marisa McGuire, Heck, Maddie Quinn and Makenna Winnicki followed by winning the 400 individual medley relay in a meet-record time of 4:36.64. McGuire, Macak, Hawley and Heck took down another meet record on their way to a win in the 200 freestyle relay (1:48.93).
Winnicki, Kennedy, McFarland and Janssen kept the record run going in the 500 decrescendo relay (5:21.13) and Kennedy, Quinn and Winnicki broke the record in the 300 backstroke relay (3:17.84).
"When that first record fell, the whole team knew it was possible. It got the whole team going, cheering on the sideline. It was a fun day, a lot of energy, 180 degrees from where we were a couple of days ago," Byrka said, referencing Thursday's narrow 86-84 win over Medford. "That was my intention coming into it. After that less than perfect meet in Medford I talked to the girls and said, 'This is our home meet. Let's get back that Hodag pride and show them how it's done.'"
Quinn, McFarland and Macak took second in the 300 butterfly relay; McGuire, Ella Schiek and Hawley were second in the 300 breaststroke relay and Seidl, Janssen, Uhlarik and Schiek took second in the 400 freestyle relay.
Byrka said Saturday's performance gives the Hodags confidence heading into a matchup against perennial Great Northern Conference power Ladysmith/Bruce/Flambeau this Thursday at the Heck Pool.
"I think we've got all the momentum rolling with us, and we're going to be at home," she said. "These kids can play to the home crowd and we're going to have a big home crowd here, I think, on Thursday."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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