Swimmers catch a second wave
Jagdfeld wins two titles, South/MHS repeats as champ
Abby Jagdfeld prepared to hit the water in the 400-yard freestyle relay, and the situation was entirely familiar. Once again, the Mukwonago junior's swimming squad was chasing Arrowhead for the Division 1 state title all the way up to the season's final event. Once again, Jagdfeld was the leadoff swimmer for the top-seeded foursome.
This time, the deficit was even larger. But this time ended just like last time.
Jagdfeld delivered her finest swim in a meet where she already had two state championship performances under her belt. Waukesha South/Mukwonago got the help it needed when conference and state-level rival Arrowhead took seventh, giving the Blackshirts the necessary edge to repeat as state champion at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium in Madison on Saturday.
The squad scored 279 to Arrowhead's 273. Last year, with the meet also coming down to the 400 relay, South/Mukwonago won its first statechampionship with 293 points to Arrowhead's 291.
"This was even more nerve-racking because we needed to win, and they needed to get fifth or below," Jagdfeld said. "They were seeded eighth, and we were seeded second. We were all so nervous. My split was the best 100 free I ever swam (50.53), and Molly(Manchon) and Natalie (Clausen) both really had awesome splits, and Kaersten (Meitz) held off Cedarburg."
With the team of Jagdfeld, Manchon, Clausen and Meitz, the time of 3:25.38 marked the fourth title of the meet for the Blackshirts. Meitz won the 500-yard freestyle, and Manchon finished second toJagdfeld in both the 200 and 100 freestyle events.
"The depth of the meet going into that last relay this time around was greater," coach Blaine Carlson said. "To make up 10 points is pretty significant in one event, and we knew a couple relay teams were going to be pretty fast. Obviously, we needed to take care of ourselves first and win the race."
Clausen was moved to the 400 in place of Alicia Beam, who switched to the 200 free relay and teamed with Jagdfeld, Manchon and Meitz to take third. The result was a performance that shaved nearly six seconds off the 400 free seed time.
"I wasn't on the 400 free relay last year, so I didn't really have that feeling of pressure (last time)," said Meitz, whose anchoring performance held off Cedarburg by half a second. "All my teammates and coach are depending on me and the rest of the relay. It was a lot of pressure, and it was all worth it in the end."
Jagdfeld didn't take long to leave a mark on the meet. In the second event, the 200 free, she swam 1:47.67 and eclipsed the previous state record (1:48.09), set in 2010 by Aja Van Hout of Madison East.
"I wasn't sure if I could do it for this meet; I was definitely hoping for next year if not this year," Jagdfeld said. "I had been kind of hoping for it but not saying as much so I didn't get disappointed. I was surprised almost at how well it went. I was excited for both my swims."
She became the first Mukwonago swimmer to win a state championship. With Manchon in second and Meitz in fourth, the event was a big point grab for the Blackshirts. Jagdfeld swam 50.54 in the 100 free to become the program's first multievent winner in the same meet.
"With what she's able to do this summer, swimming in the Olympic Trials, going 1:48 at sectional meet, I expected her to do at least do 1:48 or better, but it's a matter of putting it together in a meet where there's a lot of stress and pressure," Carlson said. "As she's matured as a swimmer, she's been able to not let those things bother her as much as it would have in the past. She's a super competitor, and when push comes to shove, I wouldn't bet against her very often."
Meitz then swam 4:52.92 to affirm her top seed in the 500, holding off defending state champion Natalie Johnson of Cedarburg (4:55.64) and finishing almost five seconds ahead of last year's title-winning time.
"My best time in club has been 4:55, so (my goal during the year) was 4:54," Meitz said. "My coach was telling me if you're going to win this race, you're going to want to set a lower goal time, 4:52 or better, to win. I knew it was going to be faster this year.
"In the past years at state, I had been seeded really high, and that hasn't been the outcome. I had been so nervous. I've been trying to change my state of mind, blocking out the negative thoughts and be more confident but not cocky. I went into the meet a lot more relaxed and calm than last year."
Carlson also highlighted the role of Addison Skogman, who took sixth in the 500. Clausen took third, giving the Blackshirts 49 points in the event.
Coming on strong
Manchon, a sophomore who had battled a sinus infection for a week and a half leading into the state meet, has been an elite training partner for Jagdfeld.
"For her to come through the way she did, taking second in both freestyle races and being on two freestyle relays with a great split (50.81) on the 400 free relay, she was huge," Carlson said.
Arrowhead has historically had perhaps the state's best depth, a factor that comes into play at events such as the Classic 8 meet, where the Warhawks dominated by a healthy margin over the Blackshirts.
"Our team was doubting itself throughout the season, especially after conference, because they won by so many points," Meitz said. "But after we won sectional, that sparked our hope and confidence. It's real tough going up against them, they're such a great team.
"It feels even greater just because people thought last year we only won by 2 points, so maybe they thought that we got lucky or something. We proved we can do it again."
They could do it yet again, too. Although the team graduates senior captains Megan Andersen (a Mukwonago swimmer who took 20th in the 500 free) and Madeline Farrell (18th in the 500 free), all swimmers who scored at the state meet will be back.
Considering the team repeated this year despite graduating butterfly state champion Kayla Skenandore and Mukwonago's Sara Zemanovic, who scored in three events last year and anchored the 400, that's a good sign.
"It's definitely satisfying," Carlson said. "The girls stressed team a lot and tried to make sure kids are doing it not for themselves but for somebody else in the pool with them. They bought into that; it was certainly a team effort. It would be nice to have to not go down to the last relay, but it's the character of the team that they know the meet's not done until the last relay's done. They have confidence in themselves."
Mukwonago junior Lizzy Baertlein took sixth in the backstroke (one place ahead of Beam) and took sixth in the medley relay with Clausen, Skogman and Beam. She also placed 18th in the butterfly.
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