In Dan Anderson’s previous 19 years as head coach, the Brainerd Warriors may not have had as few upperclassmen as they have this fall.
The Warriors, who open at home Tuesday night, Aug. 28, against Bemidji, have just six seniors and six juniors on a roster of 39 girls.
“We have the potential to be very good, but it’s potential right now because we’re young,” Anderson said. “As a coaching staff, we’ll have to be patient, and bring these kids along at the right time and not overdo it early on.”
The experience that does return is of a high caliber. Junior all-conference diver Beth Etterman finished third in Section 8-2A and 13th in the 2A state meet.
“Beth had a good summer,” Anderson said. “She trained really hard in the gymnastics room, and got on the (diving) board. She did some diving camps. We’re expecting big things out of her. I think she could be a top eight diver in the state.”
Sophomore Fallon Ryan finished 18th in the state in the 500 free and was 20th in the 200 free. She was second in both at the section meet and was all-conference in both. She also was all-conference in the 400 free relay.
“Last year, Fallon got down (to state) and got her feet wet,” Anderson said. “She’s a veteran now, it’s her third year on varsity. She should be able to make the same two events at state this year, and that’s her goal. I think she has a legitimate shot to be top 16 down there in the 500. She’s got a lot of talent. She just needs to learn that race a little bit more. We expect her to do big things.”
Sophomore Reilly Peterson was all-conference as a member of the 400 free relay.
“Reilly put her work in this summer,” Anderson said. “She looks so much stronger. We’re looking for big things out of her. She has the ability to break the school record in the 100 free. That record dates back to 1978.
“She’s also very good in the 200 IM, but it will be hard to get to state in the IM. Two girls in our section are all-state kind of girls in that event. Reilly could be third behind those two. As a sophomore, I don’t think that would be a bad thing. She’s a hard-worker. She has tons of talent.”
Freshman Hannah McKeag was all-conference in backstroke last year in her first year on varsity.
“She had a great summer, she put in a lot of work,” Anderson said. “She’s much stronger this year. We see her, definitely, as a girl who can make it to state in the backstroke, and she’s got a shot to break our school record in the 50 free. She has that kind of talent.”
Junior Erica Rehnblom received all-conference honorable mention with the 200 medley relay.
“Erica swam on our medley relay in the section, she swam the breast on that,” Anderson said. “I think we got a couple things tweaked on her stroke this summer. We’re looking for her to have a great year.
“Erica and Annika Watson will be next to each other. That will be one of the strengths of our team, with those two in the breaststroke.”
Junior diver Lonie Anderson is another individual the Warriors’ coach believes will be a big contributor.
“Lonie keeps improving more and more and more,” Dan Anderson said. “We think she can place in the top eight at the section meet, and maybe move up higher.”
The Warriors are coming off of a second-place finish and 7-1 season in the Central Lakes Conference. They finished second in the conference. Class 1A state champion Sartell cruised to the CLC crown.
“The conference is as balanced and strong as ever,” Anderson said. “Sartell is again the favorite to win the conference title. Willmar, Brainerd and St. Cloud Tech should contend for the runner-up spot.”
Brainerd, 8–1 overall last year, will again compete in Section 82A with St. Cloud Tech, Moorhead, Elk River, Buffalo, Watertown-Mayer/Delano, St. Michael-Albertville and Maple Grove. Last year, the Warriors finished fifth in the section.
“It’s a very competitive section as all of those schools have strong swimming programs,” Anderson said. “Elk River has won the section championship nine times since swimming went to a two-class format in 1997. They won the championship from 1997-1999 and again from 2001-2006. The only team to knock them off was Brainerd back in 2000. We were runners-up seven times to the Elks.
“Maple Grove was placed in Section 8 five years ago and they have won the section title each of those years.”
Seniors: Anna Bieganek, Josie Smude, Kaylie Johnson, Paige DeFrang
Juniors: Ashten Austin, Greta Engen, Lonie Anderson, Annika Watson, Erica Rehnblom, Beth Etterman
Sophomores: Baylee Bessingpas, Anne Grabowski, Alex Eigen, Reilly Peterson, Fallon Ryan
Freshman: Hannah McKeag
Senior: Jenny Bowling
Sophomores: Savanah Savage, Haley Anderson, Hailey Hensel, Sammy Schultz, Delaney Kennedy, Kaelyn Spencer, Olivia Klinger, Mady Karels, Catie Kleindl
Senior: Syndey Wold
Freshmen: Abby Rubado, Alyssa Williams, Mia Berry, Kaitlyn Borgstrom, Haley Bradford, Allison Crum, Marina Cruz, Sierra Lund, McKenzie Crawford, Sami Selter
Eighth-graders: Lauren Forsythe, Sydney Erickson
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.