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Gallery: Tigers compete in Section 1A prelims

Haley Simon of Albert Lea swims the 200-yard freestyle Wednesday on the first day of the Section 1A meet at Rochester Recreation Center. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Haley Simon of Albert Lea swims the 200-yard freestyle Wednesday on the first day of the Section 1A meet at Rochester Recreation Center. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

ROCHESTER — With a calm confidence, the Albert Lea girls’ swimming team paddled closer to state.

“Our main goal was to qualify (for finals), so nobody was really stressing out about it,” said Albert Lea sprinter Anna Andersen. “We took it easy a little bit. Friday will be the big show.”

However, that didn’t mean the Tigers swam slowly. Albert Lea set a section record and won five of 12 events Wednesday at the Section 1A prelims at Rochester Recreation Center.

The Tigers’ section record was set in the 200-yard medley relay. Albert Lea’s team of Andersen, Lindsey Horejsi, Ahnika Jensen and Bailey Sandon completed the race in 1:48.21 to break Visitation’s record set last year by 0.26 seconds.

Horejsi was involved in four of the five first-place finishes. In addition to the 200 medley relay, she teamed up with Emily Taylor, Haley Simon and Jensen in the 200 freestyle relay. The group posted a time of 1:39.18 to beat second-place Mankato West by 0.99 seconds.

On an individual level, Horejsi won 200 individual medley with a time of 2:06.16 and the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.73. She is the defending state champion in both events.

In addition to Andersen’s spot on the 200 medley relay team, she won the 50 freestyle in 24.36 seconds and took second in the 100 freestyle.

“Lindsey did what Lindsey does, and Anna was right on,” said Albert Lea coach Jon Schmitz.

Aside from the obvious state-qualifying favorites, the Tigers had multiple under-the-radar performances by Bailey Sandon, Samantha Nielsen and Emily Taylor.

Sandon took fifth place in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:01.92. She’ll only need to shave 0.13 seconds from that mark in the finals to make the state cut time. Her prelim time of 2:15.40 in the 200 individual medley was already 1.66 seconds under the state cut time.

“Bailey had some big swims today,” Schmitz said. “She really had an amazing meet with her two individual (events).”

Despite having already swam under the state cut time in the 200 individual medley, Sandon will need to do the same in the finals. There are two ways to qualify for state: swim under the state cut time in the finals or finish in the top two.

Nielsen took fifth place in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:10.20. She will need to cut 0.08 seconds from that time to get under the state cut time.

Perhaps the least obvious exceptional race was that of Emily Taylor in the 50 freestyle. She snuck into the finals by 0.14 seconds for 16th place with a time of 26.10. She needs to break 25.09 to make the state cut time.

“The supporting cast is coming through for us, which is really nice,” Schmitz said. “We need that because if those kids make it to state more than likely they’re going to place and score points.”

Aside from an injury, the Tigers’ season has been going smoothly. Ahnika Jensen, who qualified for state last year in the 100 breaststroke, switched to freestyle sprints and relays because of a knee injury. She swam a leg of the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay, which both took first place in prelims.

“It’s been difficult, but I think we’ll do well,” said Jensen.

The section finals will be at 3:30 p.m. Friday.