MINNEAPOLIS – All season long depth has been a huge key for the Delano girls swimming and diving team. A season filled with hard work and determination paid off in a big way as the Tigers delivered another outstanding performance as a team to finish in second place at the Class A state meet at Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center Nov. 18.
“We’ve placed third a number of years so getting second is amazing,” Delano coach Karen Shallbetter said. “We knew it was going to be really close between us and Mound Westonka/Holy Family. We just kept telling them to move up and move up because that’s what we can do. When you move up a spot or two, those are big points.”
The second-place finish for Delano was highlighted by numerous impressive performances. One of the biggest ones was senior Avery Lommel claiming the state title in diving with a total score of 380.65 on 11 dives.
“I’m so happy right now,” Lommel said about wrapping up her career as the state champion. “This was the end goal and I can’t believe it really happened.”
Lommel came into the finals in third place but came through in her final dives for the Tigers.
“She earned it,” Shallbetter said. “She has been amazing all season. She’s broken records at almost every meet she’s at. She deserves it. She really does. She works really hard and her practices are near perfect. She just nailed it and had it down today. She knew with her advanced difficulty at the end it would give her a big boost and she nailed it.”
Heading into her final dive, Lommel began to feel the nerves. A quick meeting with her teammates Jennifer Coons and Amelia Nelson helped reassure her of what she needed to do.
“I was pretty nervous going into my last dive,” Lommel said. “ I just always go to them when I need encouragement.”
The quick meeting paid off as Lommel delivered in her final dive, claiming the state title in the process.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Lommel said. “I’m really proud of myself. I’m so grateful for my coaches and my teammates. My family has been huge and I couldn’t do without them.”
Delano’s impressive showings went into the swimming portion of the event as well. The final event of the meet was the 400-yard freestyle relay in which the team of Kaia Georges, Strobl, Abby Gierke, and Hannah Wadholm took second place to secure their runner-up finish.
“We have a really good section so it’s really fun to go up against competition like that,” Josie Strobl said. “Even swimming against our own team all season, that helps our confidence a lot. Our team pushes each other really hard in practice which gets us to where we are right now. We all race against each other so much every day. It just pushes each other every single day. It’s super fun to have that.”
The tough schedule all year long along with the competition every day in practice has been huge for Delano. It’s a big reason they finished the year as the runner-up in Class A.
“They’re very competitive,” Shallbetter said. “They push each other really hard in practice. We talk a lot about how your teammate isn’t your competitor. They’re your supporters. They’re the ones pushing you to become better. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seventh grader or senior, they’re in the pool and they are all working hard.”
The Tigers also had strong showings in other events as well. The 200-yard medley relay team of Norah Seguin, Bella Kern, Abby Seguin, and Strobl took third place with a time of 1 minute and 49 seconds. In the 50-yard freestyle, Georges finished in a tie for fifth place while Norah Seguin took third in the 100-yard backstroke and Strobl finished fourth. In the 200-yard freestyle relay, Hannah Wadholm, Lydia Jostock, Shelby Benker, and Georges took third place.
“They did amazing at sections and it’s usually either hit or miss if you can continue that momentum here,” Shallbetter said. “We tapered everybody for sections so we weren’t quite sure what we would get. They dug in today and did amazing. That’s all of them. They didn’t give up. This was important to them and everybody stepped up.”
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports