by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
With a new coaching staff for the first time in two decades, there’s a different vibe for Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman girls swimming this fall.
“It’s a lot different. A lot different. But i really like it,” said junior Samantha Hendricks, after helping the Elks beat Champlin Park 94-90 at home on Thursday evening. “It’s not better or worse, just a lot different.”
Elk alum Luke Johnson is at the helm now and assistants are his wife Elizaberth (just married in August) and Eric Opsahl. They replaced Colleen Killpatrick, who coached 19 straight winning seasons before moving to Lakeville after getting re-married, and her assistant all 19 years, Doug Bloom, who resigned with her.
“We do a lot more short drills, not so much distance, but we are getting more into distance workouts now,” said Hendricks. Smiling and rolling her eyes, she added, “At the beginning, a lot girls were like, WHAT is going on? But I think, it will play out the same.”
The Elks are 2-2 in conference and 2-3 overall, losing two a pair of powers early in the schedule, Maple Grove and Stillwater.
“I think it’s going well. We are getting real good efforts from the girls,” said Johnson. “We have a very good core group of leaders.”
Against Champlin Park, the Elks mixed things up a bit. They had first-places in seven of 12 events — by junior Lia Maegi in the individual medley, senior Marin Hayes in the 50 freestyle (her first time doing that event on varsity), Hendricks in the 100 freestyle, sophomore Margaret Schuster in the 500 freestyle, junior Jessica Young in the backstroke, and the medley and 400 free relay teams.
“Everyone swam three events tonight, not four,” said Johnson. “Normally they do two relays and two individual, tonight just one individual. We want to make sure all the girls get opportunities. We have a big team, with 75 swimmers.”
Johnson cited veteran leadership from Young, Hendricks, Ally Sterneman, Taylor Odegard, Hannah Johnson, and Alaina Sylvester. He added there’s some talented swimmers in grades eight and nine coming up.
Hendricks said the coaches being married seems to help them connect with the team. “They act a lot alike and are very positive,” she said. Opsahl contributes a lot of good technical help, she added.
Sterneman, senior co-captain from Zimmerman, likes the fact that she’s been able to switch to sprints this year after doing distances under Killpatrick.
“I wanted to do 50 last year,” said Sterneman, “but Colleen had (five-time state entrant) had Alli Schwab. I have always been trying to keep up with Alli.”
She’s been getting firsts and seconds in the 50 and 100 with times close to Schwab’s.
“I like the 500, but I thought I’d be better at sprinting, and the coaches felt the same way,” said Sterneman, who didn’t sprint against Champlin with the lineup changes. “It’s definitely different from the 500, but both are really, really hard. In sprints, everything from start to turn to breakouts all matter.”
Sterneman can still reel off a good 500 when called upon, like at Maple Grove last week when she started slow but moved from fifth to second in the last 100 yards.
Next for the Elks is the Edina Invitational on Saturday.
Editor’s note: The Saturday paper has to be almost complete before Thursday evening so there won’t be much on this meet in the paper but we’re providing a story and some photos online.
Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman 94, Champlin Park 90
200 medley relay — (1) Elks: Jessica Young, Alaina Sylvester, Samantha Hendricks, Taylor Odegard, 1:56.01 (2) Champlin Park 2:008.2
200 freestyle — (1) Gina Grandner, CP, 2:01.34 (2) Anya Larson, Elks, 2:12.72 (3) Shauna Ling, CP, 2:17.61
200 individual medley — (1) Lia Maegi, Elks. 2:37.32 (2) Claire Lerud, Elks, 2:39.27 (3) Anna Johnson, CP, 2:40.12
50 freestyle — (1) Marin Hayes, Elks, 27.20 (2) Laura Katchmark, CP, 27.37 (3) Elizabeth Kelser, Elks, 27.64
Diving — (1) Maddy Elzondo, CP, 160.15 (2) Hannah Johnson, Elks, 138.50 (3) Brianna DeValk, Elks, 115.0
100 butterfly — (1) Elise Magalis, CP, 1:05.73 (2) Elizabeth Zeller, CP. 1:07.61 (3) Maggie Techsendorf, Elks, 1:10.61
100 freestyle — (1) Hendricks 56.81 (2) H.Johnson 58.83 (3) Kaylee Benson, Elks, 1:03.12
500 freestyle — (1) Margaret Schuster, Elks, 6:06.34 (2) Ling 6:09.32 (3) Danica Mitchell, Elks, 6:10.27
200 freestyle relay — (1) Champlin Park 1:48.29 (2) Elks 1:53.11
100 backstroke — (1) Young 1:03.02 (2) Odegard 1:05.49 (3) Sylvester 1:06.31
100 breaststroke —(1) Grandner 1:13.30 (2) Magalis 1:16.17 (3) Larson 1:18.91
400 freestyle relay — (1) Elks: Young, Johnson, Odegard, Hendricks, 3:50.41 (2) Champlin Park 4:08.55