Rhinelander’s Makenna Winnicki battles Brookfield Academy’s Gabby Hrdlick, background, for position during the 500 yard freestyle at the WIAA Division 2 state girls swim meet at the UW-Madison Natatorium Friday, Nov. 11. Winnicki tied for ninth-place overall with a time of 5 minutes, 21 seconds. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Rhinelander’s Marissa Martin swims the breaststroke leg of the 200-yard medley relay during the WIAA Division 2 state girls swim meet at the UW-Madison Natatorium Friday, Nov. 11. The Hodags finished 14th in the event, matching their finish in the medley at state a year ago.
11/14/2017 7:30:00 AM Winnicki 9th at state in 500 Hodags' medley relay places 14th
MADISON - Four members of the Rhinelander High School girls' swim team got a taste of the limelight at Friday's WIAA Division 2 state meet.
Freshman Makenna Winnicki tied for ninth in the 500-yard freestyle and was part of a Hodag squad - along with freshmen Lisa Kennedy and Marissa Martin, and junior Grace Heck - that placed 14th in the 200 merely relay at the UW-Madison Natatorium.
The results were mixed for the Hodags, by their own admission. The team had goals of besting their seed times and positions in the two events in which they qualified for the state meet. Winnicki picked up one spot and dropped a little more than a second from her sectional performance in the 500 while the medley relay was roughly six tenths of a second slower than it was at sectionals and fell one spot from where it was seeded.
"But, overall, all the girls worked hard and I thought they did well," Hodag co-coach Marna Winnicki said.
Makenna Winnicki, Marna's daughter, wound up tied for second in the slower of the two heats of the 500, finishing in a time of 5:21.00, a 1.27-second improvement from sectionals.
Winnicki was part of a tight four-way battle for the lead for much of the opening heat. Whitewater senior Grace Fanshaw eventually separated herself slightly from the other contenders, while Winnicki battled Shorewood's Maya Schneider and Brookfield Academy's Gabby Hrdlick for the runner-up spot.
Winnicki was fourth when the swimmers hit the wall to begin the final lap, but swam the final 50 yards in 31.13 seconds to tie Schneider and edge Hrdlick by 0.19 seconds.
"I just tried to keep pushing harder," Makenna Winnicki said. "I didn't know the girl (Schneider) at the other side of the (pool) was there, but I just kept trying to go as hard as I can, trying to improve my time."
Marna Winnicki said she wanted Makenna to go out fast - she was second to Hrdlick following a 28.43-second opening 50 - but that the her pace dropped a little before picking back up toward the end.
"Her third and fourth splits were just slow, but all her others were faster," coach Winnicki said. "Now that she's swimming at this pace. She'll learn how her body feels and what she can actually do and push harder."
The Hodags opened the night with a time of 1:55.64 seconds in the 200 medley relay, 0.58 seconds slower than their time a week earlier at sectionals.
"It was a little off our best, which is all right," said Heck, who swam the anchor freestyle leg. "When it comes down to 50s, it's a touch or a turn that can really make the difference. I think, overall, we swam really well. That's the best we could do."
All four members of the relay admitted they were slightly off where they wanted to be in terms of a split. Kennedy led off with the 14th-fastest split in the backstroke (29.63), Martin followed with the 10th-best split in the breaststroke (32.46), Makenna Winnicki was 13th-fastest in the butterfly leg (27.76) and Heck was 14th in the freestyle leg (25.79).
"I think they worked hard, but it's just the little things that add the time. In close races like that, those hurt," coach Winnicki said.
Friday was the first WIAA state meet for Makenna Winnicki, Kennedy and Martin, who all admitted to a varying degree of nerves before the event.
"It felt like it happened all so fast," Kennedy said. "I don't know. I just felt like I didn't have time to really think about it. I just went into it."
Added Martin, "I was a little nervous in the beginning, but I just looked at it as a normal meet. I just had to do it and get it over and done with."
With all four swimmers back for at least one more year, they all chalked it up as a learning experience.
"It definitely shows what we need to work on," Heck said. "I only have one year left after this, so I'm going to focus on certain areas of my swimming. Hopefully we come back with more relays next year."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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