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Gallery: Tigers qualify for state in 8 events

Samantha Nielsen of Albert Lea swims the butterfly portion of the 200-yard individual medley Friday in the Section 1A finals at Rochester Recreation Center. Nielsen qualified for state in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:09.69, which gave her fifth place and was 0.43 seconds under the state cut time. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Samantha Nielsen of Albert Lea swims the butterfly portion of the 200-yard individual medley Friday in the Section 1A finals at Rochester Recreation Center. Nielsen qualified for state in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:09.69, which gave her fifth place and was 0.43 seconds under the state cut time. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

ROCHESTER — The first event foreshadowed what was to come for the Albert Lea girls’ swimming team.

After winning the 200-yard medley relay in 1:45.15 — a time that is faster than the Class A state record — Lindsey Horejsi, Anna Andersen, Bailey Sandon and Ahnika Jensen went on to qualify for state in all three of their other events.

“It was one heck of a performance out there,” said Albert Lea coach Jon Schmitz on Friday at the Section 1A meet at Rochester Recreation Center. “It shows how well our kids prepared themselves this year and how competitive they are. I’m really proud of them.”

Capping the afternoon was a third-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay by Haley Simon, Jensen, Emily Taylor and Sandon that shaved 8.22 seconds off the prelim time and was 4.13 seconds under the state cut time.

“That was a great way to end it because that’s the team without the help of Anna or Lindsey,” said Schmitz. “That’s the rest of the team gutting it out and making it happen. It shows we’re more than just two swimmers on this team.”

The 400 freestyle relay time was one of four Albert Lea school records. The Tigers also set three section records, qualified for state in eight events and swam faster times than the Class A state record in two events.

School records were set in the 200 medley relay, the 200 freestyle relay (1:36.07), the 400 freestyle relay (3:41.23) and by Sandon in the 100 backstroke (1:01.68).

“All the relays had school records,” Schmitz said. “That’s just insane.”

Aside from being school records, the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays were faster than the Class A state records. Albert Lea’s 200 medley time was 0.46 seconds faster than the state record, and the 200 freestyle time was 0.07 seconds faster.

However, even though they’re faster than the state records, those times will go down in the section record book.

“We’ll just have to do that again at state,” said Horejsi.

Horejsi was one of five Tigers to qualify for state in multiple events. With first-place finishes in all of her events, she was named the section Swimmer of the Year. Albert Lea swept all the awards, as Schmitz was the section Coach of the Year, and Joey Clapp was the section Assistant Coach of the Year.

Some Minnesota State High School League officials wore earplugs — with good reason. It was deafening. Horejsi said during the breaststroke, the crowd provided motivation.

“When I was doing my underwater pull-out, it was just so surreal,” Horejsi said. “To come up and hear that roar, you just drive off of that adrenaline.”

Simon qualified for state in three events and missed the state cut time by 0.85 seconds in the 200 freestyle. Samantha Nielsen was the seventh Albert Lea swimmer to qualify for state by taking fifth place in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:09.69, which was 0.43 seconds under the state cut time.

Albert Lea finished third in the team standings with 317 points. Visitation won the section team title with 532, and Mankato West was the runner-up with 360. Visitation is the defending Class A state champion, and Mankato West is the defending state runner-up. The Tigers finished fifth last season.

Next, Albert Lea will compete in the Class A state prelims at noon Thursday at the University Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Class A swimming and diving finals will be at noon Friday.

“State is the best time of year, so it’s going to be fun to see how fast people can go because there were a lot of surprises today,” Horejsi said. “We improved a lot more than we thought we would.”

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: Nov. 7 post.