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October 16, 2019

The Rhinelander High School girls’ swim team poses with the first-place trophy after winning the Hodag Relays at the Heck Family Community Pool Saturday, Sept. 14. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
The Rhinelander High School girls’ swim team poses with the first-place trophy after winning the Hodag Relays at the Heck Family Community Pool Saturday, Sept. 14. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
9/17/2019 7:32:00 AM
Rhinelander swimmers rule home relays

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

The Rhinelander High School girls' swim team showed Saturday it is much more than just a handful of strong swimmers.

Rhinelander won four events, placed second in four others and won the Hodag Relays at the Heck Family Community Pool. The Hodags scored 112 points to beat Marshfield by 14 points for the overall title in the five-team meet.

Rhinelander spread the wealth, with eight different swimmers contributing to at least one race win. Thirteen members of the team got on the podium as part of a first- or second-place finish.

"That's what's making our team special, we have the depth," RHS girls' swim coach Jenny Heck said. "We have kids who are fast in multiple events and we can move kids around. That helped us a lot (today) and that will help us in the conference."

Rhinelander took down three meet records and one pool record in the process. The all-time Heck Pool mark in the 200-yard medley relay lasted all of two days as the Hodags lopped another 0.38 seconds off the time, with a new mark of 1 minute, 54.08 seconds. The lineup was tweaked slightly from when the Hodags broke a 26-year-old mark Thursday against Lakeland. Noelle St. Pierre replaced Maria Heck in the anchor leg of the relay on Saturday. The first three legs remained the same with Lisa Kennedy swimming backstroke, Malia Francis swimming breaststroke and Makenna Winnicki swimming butterfly.

"We have lots of options with that medley relay and we're going to be changing it a lot this season. It's great that we have options to do that with such a fast relay," Jenny Heck said.

Kennedy, Winnicki and Francis teamed up to take down two other meet records on the day. Francis helped Kennedy and Winnicki smash their old meet record in the 300 backstroke relay with a time of 2:59.79. Francis unofficially swam a 56.66-second split to end the race as the team smashed the old mark set of 3:17.84 set by Kennedy, Winnicki and Maddie Quinn in 2017. The three also bettered the meet record in the 300 butterfly relay by nearly 12 seconds en route to a win (3:10.53).

"That backstroke is going to be hard to touch," coach Heck said. "It's hard to get three fast girls like that together. When you have a year like that, you want to go for a record. That was fun to do."

Rhinelander picked up another win in the 200 freestyle relay as freshmen Genna Fugle, Phoebe Moran and Abigale Johnson teamed up with senior Jaylen Janssen to finish in a time of 1:58.52, 3.3 seconds ahead of the runner-up squad from Marshfield.

"It was really exciting for some of those girls to get a first-place medal," Jenny Heck said. "The goal was to have each of them break 30 seconds in the 50. They were awful close to doing that. When they have goals like that and are going for the win, it makes it even more exciting and fun."

The Hodags added a slew of runner-up finishes. Johnson, Janssen, Fugle and Ella Cordy took second in the 800 freestyle relay; St. Pierre, Sierra Woodford, Maria Heck and Marisa McGuire were second in the 500 decrescendo freestyle relay; St. Pierre, Woodford and McGuire were second in the 150 mixer medley relay and Janssen, Heck, Johnson and Gussie Gruett took second in the 400 freestyle relay.

The four event wins were the most of any team in the field. Marshfield had three wins while Lakeland, Wausau West and Antigo had one win each. Lakeland was third, 38 points behind Rhinelander in the final standings. Wausau West was fourth and Antigo finished fifth.

Up next, Rhinelander travels to Medford for a Great Northern Conference dual next Thursday. Like Lakeland this past week, Medford is expected to be one of the top contenders in the Great Northern Conference race.

"Medford is a tough team and we're going to have to be ready for them, but we're not letting up with our training," coach Heck said. "We have to work hard and the kids are going to have to get used to swimming fast while being tired."

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at

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