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Team

Baraboo girls swimming state swimmers pose for a photo at practice on Wednesday. Pictured front row, left to right: Mattie Letendre and Naomi Pelland. Back row: Kirby Tock, Hannah Vittengl, Taylor Bradley, Natalie Gneiser, and Ella Lohr.

The Baraboo girls swimming team has always been successful at the state tournament.

While the Thunderbirds usually meet their objective of being placed on the podium in a couple of events, there’s one goal that’s eluded them for a few years: winning a state title.

That mission is entirely possible during tonight’s WIAA Division 2 State Swimming and Diving Championships in Madison, as Baraboo is seeded third in three events and second in two.

“They all have a good shot,” Baraboo coach Lynn Keeling said during practice on Wednesday.

Baraboo’s most recent championship came in 2014, when Katie Coughlin won the 100-yard backstroke. It was the team’s first title in nine years, after Baraboo’s 200 free relay took first in 2005.

Last season, the Thunderbirds had an opportunity in the 200 medley relay as they were seeded second but wound up taking fourth in 1:49.38.

Three of the four swimmers from that event will have another shot tonight, as freshman Natalie Gneiser and seniors Taylor Bradley, Kirby Tock and Hannah Vittengl are seeded second once again, this time with a 1:48.9. The quartet is only behind rival Madison Edgewood, which finished in 1:48.05 at the Baraboo sectional meet Saturday.

“Edgewood (is the team to beat) right now, but McFarland can change it up if they want to; they’ve got that winning freestyler, (Alexandra) Moderski who’s crazy fast. So it all depends. We could do it, but it depends upon if they all have their best swims at once.”

Vittengl, who competed in all three relays at last season’s state meet, is longing for the crown in the medley.

“I feel a lot of emotion because it’s my last year and I’m kind of bummed around the 200 free relay and how we didn’t (qualify) for state,” she said. “But I’m really excited to see what we can do. We’re seeded second in the 200 medley so we could be state champs. I’m really hoping we get that title.”

Vittengl said she’s eyeing to finish her 50 freestyle leg of the medley relay in 23 seconds, while Tock said she’s hoping for a :25 in her butterfly portion.

“That was really good for me; that was a second faster than any of my best times,” Tock said. “So if I can match that or get it better that would be really awesome. I think we’re all going for another school record so it would be cool to break that again for three years in a row.”

Tock, who is also a part of the 400 free relay team which is seeded 11th (3:43.84), has only a couple of opponents to beat in the 100 butterfly. The senior has made the podium in the event for two straight years, and after taking fourth last season, she’s hoping for a top-three finish. She’s seeded in third with a time of :58.6, behind Edgewood’s Kaitlyn Barth in first :57.16 and Whitnall’s Nicole Beckman in second (:58).

“I think the goal is to always go in and win. I’m about a second-and-a-half (behind) which is kind of a lot but I took it out faster than Kaitlyn (Barth) on Saturday so I know I have the speed, it’s just all about finishing hard. It’s going to be my last race, so I’ve just got to go all in.”

Bradley meanwhile, is still riding momentum after winning the sectional championship in the 100 breaststroke. The senior is seeded second in the event in 1:06.31, only behind Whitewater’s Ella Houwers (1:05.88).

Freshman Ella Lohr is seeded third in both her individual events, the 200 individual medley (2:11.61) and the 100 breast (1:07.31). She’s one of four Baraboo underclassmen competing in the meet. Assistant coach Ashley Dietsch doesn’t believe nerves will be a factor at the loud UW-Natatorium.

“They have a lot of experience and they really weren’t nervous at sectionals so I think they’ll be solid.”

Other Baraboo swimmers and their state seed times include Bradley in the 200 IM (11th, 2:14.64); Gneiser in the 200 IM (12th, 2:15.37) and the 100 breast (12th, 1:10.32); and sophomore Mattie Letendre in the 100 fly (16th, 1:00.93).

All of Baraboo’s state qualifiers dropped times at the sectional meet, something of which Keeling hopes to see again tonight.

“We usually stay about the same at state, but I think we’ve worked them a little harder longer so I’m hoping state will be another big night.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @chris_CNsports or contact him at 608-745-3515

Regional Sports Reporter