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Tigers swim past Winhawks

Albert Lea's Samantha Nielsen swims the butterfly portion of the 200-yard individual medley Thursday in the Tigers' home opener against Winona. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea’s Samantha Nielsen swims the butterfly portion of the 200-yard individual medley Thursday in the Tigers’ home opener against Winona. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

A gold sweep by two seniors propelled the Albert Lea girls’ swimming team to victory in its home opener.

Samantha Nielsen and Anna Andersen took first place in all four of their events to lead the Tigers past Winona/Winona Cotter 93-88 Thursday at Albert Lea.

“It’s great being home,” said Tigers coach Jon Schmitz. “They’ve been training hard, and things have been going well. We’ve got a lot of senior leadership.”

Albert Lea won 10 of 12 events without state record-holder Lindsey Horejsi, who Schmitz said was on a recruiting trip to the University of Tennessee.

Schmitz named Nielsen as Swimmer of the Meet. She was part of the 200-yard medley and 200 freestyle relay teams that finished first. Nielsen also captured the top spot in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:14.59 and edged teammate Bailey Sandon by 0.11 seconds to win the 200 individual medley in 2:30.84.

“The IM was a big win for us,” Schmitz said. “I thought that was a big boost to our team.”

Nielsen and Sandon pushed each other to the final wall.

“We were neck and neck for a while, and we ended up getting first and second for that race.” Sandon said. “I was really happy about that.”

Andersen was part of the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams that took first. She was the only swimmer at the meet to break two minutes in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:59.86. Andersen also won the 100 freestyle in 54.35 seconds.

Nielsen and Andersen were two of five Albert Lea seniors who won multiple events.

Along with Sandon’s second-place finish in the 200 IM, she was was part of the first-place 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams. In her other individual event, Sandon beat the Winhawks’ Alexa Lofgren by 0.39 seconds to win the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:07.17.

Ahnika Jensen mirrored Sandon’s results with three first-place finishes and one second. Jensen won the 100-yard butterfly in 1:05.47 and was part of the first-place 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays. She took second in the 50-yard freestyle by 0.12 seconds with a time of 25.98 seconds. Albert Lea’s Emily Taylor won the event.

“Our 50 free was awesome,” Schmitz said. “They’re clocking excellent times.”

Haley Simon earned two first-place finishes as part of the 200 and 400 relay teams.

Also notching top-three finishes for the Tigers were Sara Rasmussen in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:12.04; Hannah Schwemmler in the 100-yard butterfly, 1:09.57; and Lexie Simon in the 100 breaststroke, 1:23.48.

Lexie Simon, Jaeda Koziolek and Natalie Nafzger are young swimmers who have lots of potential, Schmitz said.

“We have a lot of young kids coming on for us, and we’re getting production out of them,” he said. “The girls who trained over the summer are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last year.”

Next, Albert Lea will host Faribault at 6 p.m. next Thursday.