LODI — Sometimes in swimming, it’s not so much how you finish, but rather how you start.

The Lodi/Wisconsin Heights girls swim team proved that Tuesday night as it built a big early lead to knock off Portage 99-70 in a Badger North Conference dual meet at Lodi High School.

“The girls just really wanted it,” Lodi/Wisconsin Heights co-head coach Iris Barrow said. “We came out strong, had the energy, the stamina and they wanted it bad.”

The Blue Devils jumped out to a 44-18 lead at the break, winning the first four events, but not without the Warriors making it interesting in the opening 200-yard medley relay. Portage’s top team of sophomores Brooklyn Miller, Leigha Andraschko and Madline Aldridge led through the butterfly leg, but junior Allison Veglahn was no match for Lodi’s Alana Gilles.

The Blue Devils junior got in front of Aldridge midway through the first 25 of the anchor leg and carried Lodi to a win in the event in a time of 2 minutes, 6.52 seconds, beating the Warriors top team (2:08.73) by more than 2 seconds.

“Alana is a very strong swimmer and I think it helped that she was seeing someone next to her to kick in that extra gas in order to win,” Barrow said.

Gilles’ effort gave the Blue Devils momentum, as sophomore Brooke Presny and senior Meagan Beyer went 1-2 in the ensuing 200 freestyle before the trio of sophomore Riley Petrick, Gilles and freshman Moriah Drabenstadt swept the 50 free.

Both Barrow and Portage coach Tammy Tollefson knew how crucial the Blue Devils’ sweep of the 50 was.

“The 50 was a tough one, but I knew when we had to switch things around, it was going to be a sweep,” said Tollefson, who added that the Warriors had a number of changes to make beforehand with junior Rakelle Schultz out due to illness. “That was critical for them.”

Barrow added: “It was just another great stepping stone, coming into half knowing that we were just that far ahead.”

The Blue Devils continued their momentum out of the break as the duo of Presny and junior Amanda Crowder went 1-2 in the 100 butterfly for a 54-24 lead. The Warriors answered over the final six events, winning three of them behind the pair of Miller and Andraschko.

Miller, who recently set the Portage 100-meter freestyle record, earned the Warriors’ first win of the night by taking the 100 freestyle in 57.59 seconds. Miller later added a second victory in the 100 backstroke, winning in a time of 1:04.26, beating a second-place Petrick (1:10.84) by more than 6 seconds.

“She’s coming in with great times and in the back, we’re trying to add more tempo,” Tollefson said.

Andraschko closed things out for the Warriors, taking first in the 100 breaststroke (1:20.98). For Tollefson, the victory by Andraschko was a positive after the sophomore had a disappointing performance in the same event at Lodi’s invitational on Sept. 9.

“We talked about how she had to increase her speed and she did that in the pool,” Tollefson said. “She knows she needs to turn it on a little bit sooner and its meaning something to her, so that’s a big leap.”

The trio of wins from Miller and Andraschko, however, wasn’t enough as the Blue Devils’ early hole was too much to dig out of.

“We were down one swimmer and knew that was going to make a difference, but I’m glad all the girls stepped up and did what they needed to do,” Tollefson said. “If we can get everyone here, we’ll be in the thick of things, but it’s hard when you don’t have the depth.”

Portage hosts Sauk Prairie next Tuesday, while the Blue Devils will try to keep rolling when they host River Valley.

LODI 99, PORTAGE 70

200-yard medley relay — 1, Lodi (Petrick, Drabenstadt, Loy, Gilles), 2:06.52; 2, Portage (Miller, Andraschko, Veglahn, M. Aldridge), 2:08.73; 3, Lodi (Beyer, Hellenbrandt, Crowder, Avlia), 2:17.90; 4, Portage (Moyotl, Tofson, Kohn, Copple), 2:36.53. 200 freestyle — 1, Presny, L, 2:12.08; 2, Beyer, L, 2:18.54; 3, Routson, P, 2:22.99; 4, Benck, P, 2:34.77; 5, J. Aldridge, P, 2:40.05; 6, Clark, L, 2:40.92. 200 individual medley — 1, Loy, L, 2:31.97; 2, Veglahn, P, 2:40.28; 3, Hellenbrand, L, 2:41.70; 4, Crowder, L, 2:45.07; 5, Andraschko, P, 3:01.69; 6, M. Aldridge, P, 3:08.88. 50 freestyle — 1, Petrick L, 27.98; 2, Gilles, L, 28.15; 3, Drabenstadt, L, 28.57; 4, Walters, P, 29.83; 5, Moyotl, P, 32.17; 6, Tofson, P, 32.96. 100 butterfly — 1, Presny, L, 1:09.81; 2, Crowder, L, 1:13.58; 3, Kohn, P, 1:18.65; 4, Aldridge, P, 1:24.60; 5, Moyotl, P, 1:30.14; 6, Avlia, L, 1:30.41. 100 freestyle — 1, Miller, P, 57.59; 2, Loy, L, 1:00.01; 3, Gilles, L, 1:03.50; 4, Benck, P, 1:11.37; 5, Tofson, P, 1:14.09; 6, Clark, L, 1:14.42. 500 freestyle — 1, Beyer, L, 6:14.37; 2, Routson, P, 6:33.49; 3, Wiessing, L, 6:44.88; 4, Copple, P, 7:08.94; 5, Kohn, P, 7:18.29; 6, Schmidt, L, 7:21.56. 200 freestyle relay — 1, Lodi (Loy, Gilles, Petrick, Presny), 1:51.31; 2, Portage (Andraschko, Walters, M. Aldridge, Routson), 2:03.94; 3, Lodi (Hellenbrand, Clark, Avlia, Wiessing), 2:08.55; 4, Portage (J. Aldridge, Tofson, Benck, Copple), 2:14.68. 100 backstroke — 1, Miller, P, 1:04.26; 2, Petrick, L, 1:10.84; 3, J. Aldridge, P, 1:22.40; 4, Walters, P, 1:24.21; 5, Wiessing, L, 1:26.33; 6, Schmidt, L, 1:30.89. 100 breaststroke — 1, Andraschko, P, 1:20.98; 2, Drabenstadt, L, 1:22.16; 3, Veglahn, P, 1:23.74; 4, Hellenbrand, L, 1:24.53. 400 freestyle relay — 1, Lodi (Presny, Beyer, Crowder, Drabenstadt), 4:14.82; 2, Portage (Routson, Walters, Veglahn, Miller), 4:20.81; 3, Portage (Kohn, Benck, Moyotl, Aldridge), 4:53.72; 4, Lodi (Wiessing, Schmidt, Avlia, Clark), 4:56.54.

Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR.