The Baraboo girls swimming team fell on the wrong side of another nail-biter on Tuesday evening.

The Thunderbirds played host to Waunakee, where the historic rivalry between the two teams continued. The Badger North Conference dual meet was close from start to finish, as the teams were at a dead tie going into the final event but Baraboo wound up with an 86-84 loss.

After suffering a two-point loss to DeForest last week, Baraboo coach Lynn Keeling admitted she was slightly disheartened, as the T-Birds’ quest to become conference champions most likely just slipped away.

“Just frustration,” Keeling said. “These girls have worked so hard. We talk about how you lose is what determines your character. But it sure is tough when you have two in a row that are (determined by) two points.”

With a knotted score of 78-78, it all came down to the final event of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Baraboo’s A team of Naomi Pelland, Kirby Rock, Danielle Crum and Hannah Vittengl took second (3:58.67) while Baraboo’s C team of Giselle Riem, Eva Frank, Paige Goeckermann, and Izzy DuBray took third (4:04.11), but the combined efforts of both teams only added six points to the total while Waunakee’s A team took first with a 3:44.54 to grab eight points.

“Our relays did exactly what we wanted them to do. They got first and third and second and third. We knew we wouldn’t win the 400 (free relay) so that was set. It was just multiple close races,” Keeling said. “We swam really great tonight, really fast. There were some super close races that could have gone either way, but you know what? These girls really wanted it. They swam their hearts out, so what else can you do?”

Baraboo took the early lead after taking first and third in the 200 medley relay, with senior Mackenzie Koehler, juniors Taylor Bradley and Kirby Tock along with senior Danielle Crum racing to a first-place finish (1:54.85) while Riem, Emily Bradley, Mattie Letendre and Frank took third (2:01.83). The T-Birds were outscored 9-7 in the 200 free, however, with Waunakee’s Megan Pierce taking first (2:01.88), followed by Koehler (2:07.13) and DuBray in a new personal best of 2:09.98. The Warriors extended their lead in the 200 IM, taking the first two spots while Tock took third with a 2:21.56.

It was a similar result in the 50 free, with Pelland taking third behind two Warriors with a 26.24, but the Thunderbirds bounced back in the 100 butterfly. Tock took first, breaking the minute barrier with a 59.06 while Mattie Letendre and DuBray took third and fourth with times of 1:06.16 and 1:07.19. Koehler (55.99) and Pelland (57.31) went on to take the second and fourth spots in the 100 free, before Waunakee pulled away again in the 500 free. The Warriors went 1-2 in the event, with Pierce winning it by storm with a 5:26.87, while Emily Bradley placed third with a 5:47.57. Keeling said a number of athletes stood out, including Bradley’s performance in the 500.

“Mackenzie Koehler’s 100 was really great. And Emily Bradley, her 500, she just crushed it,” Keeling said. “She’s never gone under six minutes and went a 5:47, so that was really good.”

The Thunderbirds gained back some ground with a strong 200 free relay, with Koehler, Pelland, Taylor Bradley and Vittengl taking first (1:43.23) while Riem, Frank, DuBray and Erdman took third (1:52.35) to rack up 10 easy points. All but one of Baraboo’s A team swimmers recorded splits of 25 seconds, which pleased Keeling.

“That’s super-fast for this time of year,” she said.

Baraboo was outscored 10-6 in the ensuing 100 backstroke, with Crum taking third (1:04.28), before Taylor Bradley (1:10.12), Hannah Vittengl (1:12.56) and Maria Vittengl (1:18.29) took first, third and fourth in the 100 breast to tie the score. Hannah Vittengl’s time was only 22-hundredths of a second behind Waunakee’s Ani Graf who took second in the event.

The Thunderbirds will look for revenge this weekend when they travel to Waunakee for an invitational.

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Regional Sports Reporter