Team

Pictured are the 11 Baraboo girls swimmers competing at Saturday’s sectional in Stoughton. Front row, left to right: Emily Bradley, Giselle Riem and Eva Frank. Middle row: Mackenzie Koehler, Danielle Crum, Leah Erdman, Kirby Tock and Taylor Bradley. Back row: Hannah Vittengl, Naomi Pelland and Mattie Letendre.

CHRIS FLORES/News Republic

The table is all set for Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 Sectional swimming meet, and nearly a dozen Baraboo Thunderbirds are bringing their appetites.

A total of 11 Baraboo swimmers will compete for a chance to advance to the state meet. After sending seven athletes to state last season in nine different events, head coach Lynn Keeling is hoping her team’s past success can motivate them at sectionals once again.

“A lot of them have been through it before,” Keeling said. “They’re just super excited; the energy level is high. They’re all hardworking, focused girls.”

The Thunderbirds began their tapering process toward the end of last week, with no morning practices while swimming fewer yards after school to prepare for one of the toughest sectionals in the state. No. 1-ranked Madison Edgewood is the favorite, while McFarland and fifth-ranked DeForest are two more highly touted opponents Baraboo will have to deal with.

“My real goal would be to get a runner-up plaque, which will be tough with both DeForest and McFarland,” Keeling said. “But it’s not out of reach.”

The winner of each event advances to state, along with the next 12 fastest individuals or relay teams from all sectionals. While the competition will be fierce, several Thunderbirds are seeded high in their respective events.

Baraboo’s highest seed comes from junior Kirby Tock, who is seeded first in the 100-yard butterfly in 59.06 seconds. Tock is the only swimmer seeded under a minute in the event. Freshman Mattie Letendre will also compete in the event, seeded 11th with a 1:05.13.

Junior Taylor Bradley is seeded second in the 100 breaststroke after posting a time of 1:09.47 at the Badger North Conference meet last weekend. Junior Hannah Vittengl isn’t far behind, seeded sixth in the event (1:12.38) while sophomore Emily Bradley is seeded 12th (1:16.54).

The T-Birds were state qualifiers in all three relays last season, though that might be tough to replicate. Baraboo looks to be a shoe-in in the 200 medley, as senior Mackenzie Koehler, Bradley, Tock and Vittengl are seeded second with a 1:52.92. Edgewood is seeded first with a 1:48.81.

In the 200 freestyle, Koehler, Danielle Crum, Naomi Pelland and Vittengl are seeded third with a 1:43.23 behind Jefferson/Cambridge (1:42.6) and Edgewood (1:38.29), while Pelland, Tock, Eva Frank and Bradley are seeded fifth in the 400 free (3:49.75).

Keeling hopes her swimmers can forget about their opponents’ times and focus more on their individual state of minds going into Saturday.

“You can look at all the entry times and get yourself all worked up, but in the end it’s (whether) you are ready or not,” Keeling said. “If you’re ready, you’re ready. You can’t change whatever everybody else is doing.”

Probably the hungriest of all swimmers are Baraboo’s three seniors: Koehler, Crum and Leah Erdman. Koehler, a state qualifier for two years running, will compete in four events. In addition to her two relays, she is seeded seventh in the 200 free (2:01.71) and seventh in the 100 backstroke (1:02.4).

“For the 200 medley, we’re all hoping we’re going to break the (school) record. And then personally, I want to get a 27 in my 50 backstroke,” Koehler said. “And in the 200 free, I want to break the school record. It’s going to be tough, but I think if I keep the right mindset and everything, I’ll be able to do it. Lynn’s told me I’m a lot stronger this year and I feel stronger. Hopefully it will pay off.”

It will be the first and last sectional meet for Erdman, who is seeded 11th in the 500 free with a 5:54.79. With a personal best of 5:47, the senior is looking to shave off some time.

“I’m really excited to swim the 500,” she said. “It’s my favorite event. I’m hoping to cut a lot of time.”

Crum is seeded ninth in the 100 back (1:04.28) and 16th in the 50 free (26.73). The senior hopes to land under 1:02 in the backstroke while getting in the 25-second range in the 50 free.

“I’ve never tapered in the 50 free before so I’m not really sure, but I want to go for a low 25,” Crum said. “Just going to put it all in the pool and hope for the best.”

Other sectional swimmers include Taylor Bradley in the 200 IM (2:20.33), Tock in the 200 IM (2:20.39), Pelland in the 200 IM (2:21.49) and the 100 free (56.73), sophomore Giselle Riem in the 50 free (27.0), Frank in the 100 free (1:00.36), Emily Bradley in the 500 free (5:47.57) and Letendre in the 100 back (1:04.85).

“In other sectionals, our girls might be as fast or faster than the winner in a couple,” Keeling said. “But the winner of those sectionals goes (on), so sometimes you get edged out. It looks kind of close in a few so that’s the nerve-racking part.”

When all is said and done, Keeling hopes her team can not only drop times, but continue to have fun.

“I would love to just see everybody swim their best times; big drops to make it all worth it,” she said. “But the joy on their faces is what it’s all about.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @chris_CNsports

Regional Sports Reporter