BEAVER DAM — Things started out pretty well for Portage’s prep girls swimming team on Tuesday night against Beaver Dam, but then the Warriors’ lack of depth got in the way and a good chunk of the meet went by without a first-place finish and only a couple seconds.
At least the whole rest of the meet didn’t go by without another reason to celebrate.
The Warriors won the final event of the night — the 400-yard freestyle — by a comfortable margin, taking some of the sting off of a 112-51 Badger North Conference loss to the Golden Beavers at the YMCA of Dodge County.
Warriors coach Tammy Tollefson couldn’t have been happier with how the meet ended, with Natalie Weidner, Madison Routson, Rubie Kohn and Brooklyn Miller all rising to the occasion to turn in a time of 4 minutes, 14.7 seconds — well clear of Beaver Dam’s runner-up time of 4:22.35.
“Natalie and Rubie and Maddie just really were trying to rock it,” Tollefson said of the first three swimmers in the relay, whose split times all impressed their coach.
Miller — who qualified for the WIAA Division 2 state meet in the 200 and 500 freestyles last year and the 200 free in 2017 — also impressed Tollefson, but for a little bit different reason.
“Brooklyn has been recovering a bit and so she’s just getting back into full training again, so for her to do a (split time of) 56.25 (seconds) on this part was a great place to be. And she did a 56.9 in her (open) 100, so that stood out to me — she’s not feeling everything yet, but she’s where she needs to be for this point in the season.”
Portage’s other winners Tuesday were Miller in the 200 free (2:03.84, barely edging the runner-up time of 2:04.08 turned in by Beaver Dam’s Morgan McGauley) and Weidner in the 200 individual medley (2:37.01).
Weidner, like many swimmers this time of year right in the heart of their training regime, has held steady of late in terms of her personal record.
“But,” Tollefson said, “everything she does now is she’s just tweaking everything to get it where it needs to be, so there’s a little more thought that goes into it. So we’re not taking quite the time off that we want yet, but she was just solid on walls and everything else.”
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The other big highlight for Portage in addition to the 400 free relay came in the 200 IM — it just didn’t come from Weidner.
It came from Kohn, who had yet to swim in that event this season before Tuesday.
“It’s funny because she hasn’t wanted to swim in it and we talked about it yesterday and she was like, ‘Yeah, OK, I can switch that up,’” Tollefson said.
Kohn is happy she did. The junior, who Tollefson said “loves to swim the fly,” used a strong effort in that discipline during the very first leg of the medley to carry her to second place with a time of 2:45.13 — which is 15 seconds better than her PR set a year ago.
Those results changed her tune a little on the IM now, too.
“She liked it — she said, ‘Yep, I’m feeling it now,’” Tollefson said.
Others Tollefson pointed to as standing out were senior Camryn Humke, a senior out for swimming for the first time this year who Tollefson said “keeps coming on strong” in the 200 IM, and Paige Edwards, a sophomore also out for swimming for the first time whose time in the 50 freestyle (:33.75) is right where it needs to be at this point, according to her coach.
But the biggest excitement still was at the very end, when Portage won the 400 free relay.
And perhaps biggest of all in that event was Routson, who would have had a good excuse had things not gone well for, only she didn’t need it.
“Maddie’s not feeling well today, but she came in this relay and just knocked it out (of the park) for her time,” Tollefson said. “It was the best time she’s swam all year.”