by Eric Oslund
No matter the sport, no matter season, seniors are always the leaders on teams when it comes to high school athletics. They are often ones the younger players look to for answers, or to provide a spark that helps get the energy on their team ignited.
That’s exactly how it has gone with the Elk River girls swim and dive team all season long, but the trick they are now trying to learn is how to harness that energy created by the seniors and keep it going for the entirety of a meet.
For example, the Elks held their senior night on Thursday, Oct. 5, when they hosted Maple Grove. Emotions were already high celebrating all the team’s leaders and the 200-yard medley relay team was able to use that to their advantage in the first race of the night.
The grouping of freshman swimmer Abby Charleson, and seniors Claire Grundman, Kaja Montplaisir, and Hailey Odegard were able to come in first with a time of 1:59.15 – beating out the second-place Maple Grove team by 0.40 seconds.
That finish ignited the entire pool area, but the energy died rather quickly as Maple Grove went 1-2-3 in the next two events.
“A challenge our team faces is our best swimmers and divers don’t contribute until a few events into the meet,” head coach Luke Johnson sexplained. “Going forward, our team needs to improve in the 200 free and 200 IM to keep that energy flowing.
“We need to be able to out work our opponent in those two events to overcome our inexperience. With the number of athletes per lane in practice, this is a challenge. However, we have a good core of young swimmers that are well on the way to making this reality.”
There are currently 13 seniors on this Elk River team, and they helped contribute to eight top-3 finishes on senior night against a very talented Maple Grove team. They then carried that momentum into three first-place finishes in an invite the following weekend and help their team take third overall.
It’s a talent group of swimmers and divers, and now they just need to help the younger girls catch on and keep their momentum going.
“I am very happy with the experience these seniors have had over the last five years that we’ve been together,” Johnson said. “They have had team success and challenges, they have experienced emotional highs and lows, and this group of 13 young ladies is prepared to move on to more independence in the next stage of their lives.”