November 16, 2022 at 9:12 p.m.
Sauk Centre sends six swimmers to state meet
When the 400-yard freestyle relay championship heat concluded at the Section 6A Swim and Dive Meet finals Nov. 12, Sauk Centre swimmer Maizie Jennissen hustled over to the meet’s time sheet attached to the Discovery Middle School pool wall in Alexandria.
The freshman entered the 2022 season with zero pretenses; she did not expect to make the Class A Minnesota State High School League Girls’ State Swim and Dive Meet. But, as she zeroed in on the event’s state cut time of 3 minutes and 44.83 seconds, and compared it to her relay’s performance, she could not believe the result. She glanced back at the sheet, then back to the scoreboard, then back to the sheet again.
Jennissen, along with relay teammates Carmen Loxtercamp, Stella Schirmers and Megan Heveron, had exceeded the cut by .42 of a second, locking up a trip to the state meet. The exciting finish wrapped up a marvelous meet that saw six Streeters qualify for state in six events.
“There are times in the season where they’re not as fast or maybe they’re tired and worn out, but yet, they trusted that process all the way along, knowing the outcome was going to be there,” said James Schreiner, head coach. “It’s great to see them come through and be successful. It shows me they bought into the process.”
Sauk Centre, who took fourth in the section competition out of nine teams with a team score of 380.5, immediately received a state nod with a dominant showing from their 200 medley relay. Comprised of backstroker Schirmers, breaststroker Brooke Bromenshenkel, butterfly specialist Addison Bick and freestyle swimmer Heveron, this group came into the event with high expectations and emerged with a third-place time of 1:51.23, well under the 1:53.52 state cut mark.
“I feel like we all work really well together,” Bromenshenkel said. “There were no changes that needed to made order wise, so we’ve been running through it all year. It came really naturally for us.”
Bromenshenkel missed out on qualifying for state in the 200 individual medley by less than a second, settling for a fourth-place finish, and Heveron landed right outside the state cut by .5 of a second in the 50 freestyle.
But, the Streeters picked up another state-goer in Schirmers, who won section championships in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. For the first time this season, the junior broke under one minute in both events with a 59.72-second swim in the butterfly and a 58.91-second tally in the backstroke.
“I was really excited I won both,” Schirmers said. “After the butterfly, I was like, ‘Forget about it and focus on backstroke. Don’t get too confident.’”
It would only take one event for another individual swimmer to join Schirmers, as Heveron, who logged a fifth-place time of 56.31 seconds in preliminary swims Nov. 10, dropped nearly two seconds off her time in the finals to come away with second place at 54.47.
For the senior, it has been a long, painful road to reaching the final step. Heveron underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery previously, which came with the removal of her top rib, and she has also been battling through a tear in her shoulder, with a surgery still to come. But she still put together one of the biggest swims of her career to win against the clock.
“It honestly felt like a relief,” Heveron said. “It felt like at that moment, it was worth it to push through and get the surgeries and everything. It’s very exciting.”
Bromenshenkel became the third member of Sauk Centre’s medley relay to individually progress onto state, capturing second place in the 100 breaststroke behind Melrose state champion Hallie Drossel. The freshman fought hard to record a 1:09.17 race and capture a longtime goal.
“I made the state cut the first time (at preliminaries), but I really wanted to make sure I could do it again, and that’s nerve-wracking, trying to be consistent with your swims,” Bromenshenkel said. “I was really nervous but I was also really excited, because I knew I had a shot and it wasn’t just a dream anymore.”
Then came the exciting 400 freestyle competition, which arrived with no guarantees of a state entry. However, after members Jennissen and Loxtercamp missed out on state in the 200 freestyle relay, this was a final opportunity to achieve that accomplishment.
“I was still really preoccupied thinking about the 200, but then I knew I had to pull it together, because there was a new group I had to help, it was a new opportunity to go to state,” Loxtercamp said. “I was able to pull it together and do my best, and it was a lot of fun.”
The Streeters’ positive day could not have come without key contributors from outside the state-qualifying group. Olivia Marsh, who swam in place of Heveron in the 200 medley relay at preliminaries, put forward top-11 finishes in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, Jorja Novak dropped over 20 seconds off her conference time in the 500 freestyle and Pyper Vogt took seventh in the 200 freestyle, ninth in the 500 freestyle and was a member of the team’s third-place 200 freestyle relay.
“Some past years we’ve been like, ‘Oh, these people are fast,’” Jennissen said. “This year, we all have a chance to make a positive impact on the team and all have a chance to get first.”
With this outstanding performance as a unit that captured an autumn campaign encapsulated by growth and dedication, Sauk Centre’s team season is over. The squad’s six state qualifiers will represent the Streeters at the Class A meet, which begins with preliminaries at noon Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
“It’s definitely surreal,” Bick said. “I went for True Team in seventh grade, and that was quite a few years ago. Seeing the difference between seventh grade, when I had a 35 (200 medley relay) and now, I have a 28. It’s surreal to see the difference between the different ages and seeing myself get faster.”