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December 8, 2019

Rhinelander's Malia Francis stands on the top step of the podium, joined by coach Jenny Heck after winning the 100-yard butterfly at the WIAA Division 2 state girls' swim meet in Madison Friday, Nov. 15. (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Rhinelander's Malia Francis stands on the top step of the podium, joined by coach Jenny Heck after winning the 100-yard butterfly at the WIAA Division 2 state girls' swim meet in Madison Friday, Nov. 15. (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
11/16/2019 7:36:00 AM
Francis wins fly, back titles, Hodags place fifth at state swim meet

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

Malia Francis made a statement in Madison on Friday night.

The Hodag sophomore swam her way to state titles in dominating performances in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 backstroke at the WIAA Division 2 state meet at the UW Natatorium, helping the Hodags to finish fifth overall in a 38-team D2 field.

Francis led wall to wall in the 100 butterfly as she posted the seventh-fastest time in D2 history with a mark of 56.23 seconds to beat Ashwaubenon's Hallory Dormich to the wall by 1.38 seconds. Francis opened a 0.84-second led in the first 50 yards and stretched it over the final 50 yards as the only swimmer to break 30 seconds in the second half of the race.

Francis came back to post the second-fastest time in D2 history in the 100 backstroke. Her time of 54.72 seconds was only 0.07 off the state record set by Grafton's Autumn Haebig in 2016 as she knocked off the defending state champion in the event, McFarland's Mara Freeman by 0.96 seconds.

Francis' titles were just the eighth and ninth in school history for Rhinelander in girls' swimming and the team's first since 2016 when her older sister, Kiah, was the state champ in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.

Rhinelander added two more podium finishes with its seven state entries. The team started the night with a fifth-place swim in the 200 medley relay as the squad of Lisa Kennedy, Francis, Makenna Winnicki and Noelle St. Pierre lowered their school-record time of 1:49.08 to earn a spot on the podium.

Winnicki added a second trip to the podium later in the night as she smashed her lifetime best in the 500 freestyle by roughly four seconds to finish fourth overall (5:15.55). Winnicki added a ninth-place finish in the 200 IM (2:13.42).

Rhinelander finished eighth in the 200 freestyle relay (1:40.92) with the same foursome of Winnicki, Francis, Kennedy and St. Pierre. Kennedy also finished 13th in the 100 backstroke (1:01.02).

Rhinelander was ranked as high as second in the team standings with two events remaining, but had no entries in the 100 breaststroke or 400 freestyle relay. Madison Edgewood dominated the night, taking the D2 crown with 290 points. McFarland was the runner up (163.5). Ashwaubenon (141.5), Shorewood (125) and Rhinelander (118) rounded out the top five.

Full reports will be published in Tuesday's River News.

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