Rhinelander’s Makenna Winnicki enters the water during the 200-yard freestyle relay in a Great Northern Conference girls’ swimming dual meet against Lakeland at the Heck Family Community Pool Thursday, Sept. 12. The Hodags won seven events in a 94-76 win over the T-Birds. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
The Rhinelander High School quartet of, from left to right, Lisa Kennedy, Malia Francis, Makenna Winnicki and Maria Heck set a new Heck Family Community Pool record in the 200-yard medley relay during a Great Northern Conference dual meet against Lakeland Thursday, Sept. 12. The team completed the event in 1 minute, 54.46 seconds, beating the old pool mark, set in 1993, by 0.26 seconds. (Submitted photo)
9/14/2019 7:30:00 AM Fast as lightning Hodag swimmers set pool record in medley relay, take down Lakeland 94-76
The Thunderbirds could not slow down the Rhinelander High School girls' swim team on Thursday. The lightning could not either.
Rhinelander broke a 26-year-old pool record in the 200-yard medley relay, won seven of 11 events and defeated Lakeland 94-76 in a Great Northern Conference dual at the Heck Family Community Pool.
The meet was halted for 33 minutes due to a passing thunderstorm as district policy prohibits the use of the Heck Pool when electrical storms are in the vicinity. Rhinelander won five straight events after the stoppage and cruised to 2-0 in the GNC.
"That was kind of not exactly what you want to do," coach Jenny Heck said. "Kids get tightened up, especially those kids who are in the 500 freestyle. They need the warmup and they need to get in the groove. I think that hurt us a little bit in the 500 with our times, but we're still happy to see that we were 1-2-5."
Rhinelander High School activities director Brian Paulson announced the stoppage at 6:22 p.m.
"Our pool is very ancient and our insurance company has deemed they're not sure that our pool is (properly) grounded, so if it's thunder and lightning nobody can be inside the pool," Paulson explained to the River News.
"I've been swimming since I've been 7 and I don't ever remember being in an indoor pool where they've called it for lightning, but I guess a rule is a rule," Jenny Heck said.
Rhinelander started the meet with a bang as the quartet of Lisa Kennedy, Malia Francis, Makenna Winnicki and Maria Heck took the 200 medley relay in a time of 1 minute, 54.46 seconds, beating the previous pool record set in 1993 by the Hodags by 0.26 seconds.
"I didn't even know it was 26 years old," coach Heck said. "That was great. We had it in the back of our mind that we wanted to go after that record. The kids were able to get the fast splits to make happen."
That may not even be Rhinelander's best lineup in the event. Heck said the team is still experimenting to determine what will be the best combination come tournament time.
"We're playing around with our lineup. We'll have to see. We need fast times in all four strokes. We have to see who can be the fastest and where. That's why we're moving kids around to really push themselves and see what they can do."
Francis was a four-event winner for the Hodags on the night. She took the 200 individual medley in a time of 2:10.37, which was only 0.57 seconds off the pool record set by her older sister, Kiah, in 2016.
Francis was also on the winning 200 freestyle relay team with Noelle St. Pierre, Sierra Woodford and Winnicki. Their time of 1:43.93 was 1.23 seconds off the pool record.
"We were happy with the relays, how they came out. Obviously the first two, getting the record in the 200 medley relay and in the 200 free relay, I was proud of the splits we had," coach Heck said.
Winnicki (5:35.26) and Maria Heck led a 1-2 finish for the Hodags in the 500 freestyle that extended their lead to 63-47.
Kennedy added a win for Rhinelander in the 100 backstroke (1:03.02) and St. Pierre won the 100 breaststroke (1:14.05).
Lakeland edged Rhinelander in some close races, none closer than the 50 freestyle where Rylee Ahlborn (26.11) beat Makenna Winnicki to the wall by 0.01 seconds. Ahlborn also inched away from St. Pierre over the final 50 yards to win the 200 freestyle. Naomi Hamerla beat Kennedy by 0.74 seconds in the 100 butterfly and Lakeland took the 400 freestyle relay at the end of the meet.
"That was a lot of fun, a lot of really close races," Jenny Heck said. "That's why we're here. We're here to race. We're here to get better and we appreciate these kinds of meets where kids have the opportunity to push each other to get better, both teams, and get some best times."
Part of the reason Rhinelander won the dual was its depth. The team outpointed Lakeland in seven of the 11 events, and scored no fewer than seven points of the 16 at stake in each of the eight individual races. Virtually every swimmer who raced varsity contributed points to the Hodags' total, all the way down to a fifth-place finish from Alyssa Scheuermann, who typically swims freestyle and backstroke, in the 100 butterfly.
"I was real happy with the fourth and fifth finishes that we got, the kids who were in the first heat and got those points," coach Heck said. "I think they're starting to get that (depth's) really important. They had very fast kids who could win races, be we had the fourths and fifths. I think that made the difference."
The Hodags are back in action today as they host the six-team Hodag Relays at the Heck Pool.
"Now we have some more hard work to do tomorrow, hit them hard and get ready for some fun races for Saturday," coach Heck said following Thursday's meet.
Today's relays begin at 11 a.m.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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