The Rhinelander High School girls' swim team flexed its muscles Wednesday night and knocked off some of the better teams in the Great Northern Conference.
Rhinelander won five events and added a trio of runner-up finishes as it took the Chase the Tiger Invite in Marshfield. The Hodags scored 224 1/2 points, edging host Marshfield for the title by 16 1/2 points.
Five-time defending GNC champion Tomahawk was fourth in the seven-team field Wednesday. Medford, a team that nipped Rhinelander in sectionals last year, finished fifth. It was the third of four early season meets for the Hodags in preparation for what the team hopes will be a very successful Great Northern Conference season.
"I think the kids are ready," coach Jenny Heck said. "I think these meets have provided the kids a lot more confidence and energy moving forward, and excitement knowing that we have a lot of potential to do some great things this season."
The Hodags appear to be developing a power quartet at the top of their lineup. The group of senior Marisa McGuire, junior Makenna Winnicki, sophomore Malia Francis and sophomore Noelle St. Pierre won the first event of the night, the 200-yard medley relay, with a time of 1 minute, 56.63 seconds and returned later in the program to win the 200 freestyle relay (1:46.09).
"They've done a really good job," Heck said. "They have a nice foursome. We have other kids in there too that will be in the mix. We have Lisa Kennedy back after she was not at the last two meets. It was good to have a full roster."
Kennedy won the 50 backstroke (28.90) in her return, edging Medford's Erin Bergman to the wall by 0.26 seconds. She added a fourth-place finish individually in the 50 butterfly.
"We were especially happy to see that 50 backstroke," Heck noted. "That was a close race. Actually, what happened was, because the touchpad wasn't working, they had Lisa coming in second and they overruled because they could tell (Kennedy got to the wall first)."
Francis won a pair of individual races for the Hodags, taking the 100 individual medley (1:09.19) and the 50 breaststroke (32.37). Winnicki was second in both the 50 freestyle (26.48) and 100 freestyle (58.03), finishing behind reigning GNC swimmer of the year Kylee Theiler from Tomahawk in both races.
Rhinelander added a runner-up finish in the 100 medley relay with the team of Maria Heck, Sierra Woodford, Abigale Johnson and Jaylen Janssen. Rhinelander's second entry in the event - Ella Cordy, Hannah Rumney, Phoebe Moran and Emily Tinsman - finished fourth.
The Hodags had a third-place swim in the 8x50 freestyle relay with the octet of Gussie Gruett, Johnson, Heck, Riley Miller, Kennedy, Genna Fugle, Moran and Woodford. Janssen, Miller, Gruett and Fugle were fifth as Rhinelander's second entry in the 200 medley relay. Coach Heck noted that Gruett broke the 30-second milestone in the 50 freestyle for the first time during the meet.
"That was a really fun meet. It was great to have all 18 swimmers participate and swim a lot of different relays, relays we don't swim a lot of times during the year," she said. "Anywhere from freshmen to seniors, they all did really well tonight."
McGuire added a fifth-place finish in the 50 freestyle. Rhinelander recorded sixth-place finishes with Maria Heck (100 freestyle), St. Pierre (100 individual medley) and Woodford (50 backstroke). Woodford was seventh in the 100 freestyle, Johnson took seventh in the 50 freestyle and St. Pierre finished eighth in the 50 butterfly.
"We were really pleased with how the results were," Jenny Heck said. "We weren't always No. 1 going in, but I think we moved up a lot of places in our results and I think there were some good races. We were pleased overall.
"It was good to be able to see where the kids were at a week ago and where they're at tonight, get some more splits. Some of the kids we didn't have times on. It's all a good start to the season."
Rhinelander has one more non-conference meet coming up Tuesday when it travels to Lakeland for a triangular that also includes Wausau West. The GNC dual meet schedule begins for the Hodags at Colby/Abbotsford next Thursday.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce