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home : sports : sports May 24, 2016

11/15/2012 11:35:00 AM
Lee eyes state title in the 500 freestyle
Thomi Lee is among the favorites to win the state title in the 500 yard freestyle. The junior finished fourth last year, and two of the girls in front of her will not be competing this year.
Thomi Lee is among the favorites to win the state title in the 500 yard freestyle. The junior finished fourth last year, and two of the girls in front of her will not be competing this year.

Thomi Lee’s sights have been set towards a state title in the 500 yard freestyle event since she began her high school career. It quickly became clear, however, that the junior’s path was going to be mud- dled for most of her career by Sartell-St. Stephen’s Marisa Wood. Wood, who is a senior this year, is the state’s all time record holder in the 500, swimming a ridiculous 4:49.68 in last year’s state tourney, Nobody in Class A was within 15 seconds of her. But, this year, Wood came down with a pretty serious illness that has caused her to miss nearly the whole swimming season, and she isn’t in the field for the distance swimmers this year. Lee qualified for her third consecutive state meet over the weekend, topping the Section 4A field of 500 swimmers with a time of 5:15.82. She didn’t have any pressing competition, so there wasn’t a need to go full throttle.

This weekend, at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Lee, who finished fourth last year with a time of 5:09.31, enters the state tournament as one of the handful of competitors with a shot at the state title. Her seed time is only the 5:15 she swam at sections, but her talent and ability is a much lower time. Lee’s main competition is going to come from a few different sources. Senior Abby Erdmann of Breck is the lone returner who finished ahead of Lee last year. Erdmann clocked a 5:07.36 last year, two seconds in front of Lee. Her seed time coming into this year’s tournament is tops at 5:10.56. Mankato West’s Chantal Nack also figures to be a tough challenger. She finished fifth last year in a time of 5:12.06, but she was only a freshman.

Nack returns this year with a seed time of 5:13.95. Mackenzie Braden of Holy Family Catholic also has a higher seed than Lee, coming in with a 5:14.57, but this is Braden’s first year in the event at the state tournament, so she may have some work to do to stay at a pace with Erdmann, Lee and Nack. When asked what Lee had to do to be a state champion, Wildcat Head Coach Ed Wakefield quipped, “She has to swim fast and finish in front of the second place girl. “Honestly, though, it’s going to depend on how she feels and if she can top her personal best of 5:06. Ideally, she’ll be top four in prelims and get an inside lane for the finals.” Lee’s quest to become the first state champion in Chisago Lakes’ girls swimming history will begin on Friday, Nov. 16. She will swim the preliminaries of the 500, as well as the 200 yard freestyle, an event which she medaled in last year and is seeded seventh in this year. The finals will take place on Saturday, Nov. 17. Both sessions start at noon. Lee will take the pool around 1 p.m. on Friday and 1:30 on Saturday, depending on the speed of the early events. Sam Thomsen will also be looking to push her medal count upwards this year.

This will be her third time appear- ing at the state diving tournament, and she’ll be looking for her second medal after coming in seventh place last year. She had slowly moved up since her sophomore year in 2010. Her first year, she finished 10th, last year was seventh and this year hopes to be higher for her. Three of the girls that finished ahead of Thomsen last year graduated, but they were also three of the four seniors that finished in the top 16, so there will be plenty of experience and plenty of talent in the field. Thomsen earned her spot in the state tourney with a score of 343.30 in sections. The total was enough for second place behind senior Courtney Miller of host Richfield, who set the section record with a 390.65. Thomsen will dive in prelims on Thursday beginning at noon. If she makes the finals, she’ll be diving on Saturday around 12:45.

Unfortunately, Wildcat Courtney Schlegel, who qualified for the state diving tournament last year as a sophomore, had a tough time at the section meet, missing some key dives that she was able to stick last year. Schlegel finished in ninth place -- out of contention for a state tournament berth. The Wildcats didn’t qualify anyone else for state, including their 200 freestyle relay, which went last year and was returning three out of the four swimmers. “Losing a fast swimmer from a sprint relay is tough,” Wakefield said. “We knew it was going to be a long shot coming in, and we just couldn’t get the qualifying time.” The fact that Visitation, one of the premier swimming schools in the state, has an uptick of talent this year also made it tough for the Wildcats to grab state tournament spots. “We cut a bunch of time in prelims, and then just a little in the finals,” Wakefield said. “We hit on Thursday instead of hitting on Saturday.”

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