Brainerd Warriors swimming and diving coach Dan Anderson considers the Fergus Falls Otters favorites to win the Central Lakes Conference title.
After Thursday's thrilling 94.5 to 91.5 victory at the Brainerd High School pool, Anderson can put his team ahead of, or at least even with, the previously unbeaten Otters.
Brainerd won seven of 12 events and remained unbeaten in three dual meets.
"In my mind it was an upset," Anderson said. "Maybe I didn't get my hopes up too high, but I wasn't really expecting a win."
The Warriors led by nine points entering the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Fergus Falls won the relay but the Warriors finished 2-4-5 to preserve the victory.
"We could not allow them to get first and second," Anderson said. "I thought we had a good enough relay to fend them off. Heck, we almost won it."
Brainerd opened with a win in the 200 medley relay by Robyn Wernberg, Jessica Reese, Brianna Elg and Jodi Larson.
"If we don't win that event we don't win the meet, and we won by 2/10ths of a second," Anderson said. "Then we went 1-2 in the 200 free. When Connie London got second, I knew Christie Nelson would win, but Connie getting second was huge."
Larson added a runner-up finish in the 50 free behind Reese, was third in the 100 free and helped the 200 free relay to victory.
"In the 200 free relay, she held the Fergus girl off," Anderson said. "She definitely was the hero of the first four events."
Larson recorded lifetime-best times in all four of her events.
"I guess this year I realized I needed to step it up a notch from last year, and try and get to state," she said. "I did weightlifting in the summer and summer swimming to get prepared for this and it's paying off."
In addition to winning the 50 free, Reese paid dividends by winning the 100 breaststroke and swimming a leg on the 200 free relay.
"We swam against them last year and lost," Reese said. "The girls have been talking about Fergus because they beat us four years ago, when I wasn't on the team, and it was a big loss. I wanted to help this team as much as I could. I've been swimming with this year's seniors since I was about six. This is their meet and they're really excited.
"Now, we're going to be hopefully undefeated. This was the big one."
Brainerd received a big contribution from senior Brianna Elg, who was runner-up in the butterfly, third in the 500 free and was a member of the 200 free relay.
"Brianna had to swim the butterfly, which is a brutal event anyway, then she got one event off and had to come back and swim the 500 free, which is just brutal," Anderson said. "Then she came off the 500 and swam the very next event, the 200 free relay."
Other Warrior wins were by diver Jenny Klabo and Kristin Geppert in the 500 free.
Brainerd 94.5, Fergus Falls 91.5
200 medley relay: 1-Brainerd (Robyn Wernberg, Jessica Reese, Brianna Elg, Jodi Larson) 1:58.59; 4-Brainerd (Sadie Panzer, Kristin Geppert, Katie Schindler, Maggie Boland) 2:07.78; 5-Brainerd (Ronia Gramer, Brianna Hanson, Danielle Marolt, Amanda Barthel) 2:16.42
200 freestyle: 1-Christie Nelson (B) 2:09.10, 2-Connie London (B) 2:14.21, 5-Wernberg 2:19.32
200 individual medley: 1-Kara Fisher (FF) 2:20.48, 2-Geppert 2:23.79, 5-Schindler 2:40.74, 6-Boland 2:44.63
50 freestyle: 1-Reese 26.44, 2-Larson 26.80, 6-Melissa Wentworth (B) 28.29
Diving: 1-Jenny Klabo (B) 164.95 points, 3-Heather Erickson (B) 133.0, 4-Kara Rutman (B) 123.25
100 butterfly: 1-Breanne Pendergrass (FF) 1:04.33, 2-Elg 1:05.46, 5-Schindler 1:12.27, 6-Panzer 1:13.66
100 freestyle: 1-Fisher (FF) 57.15, 2-Nelson 59.39, 3-Larson 1:01.08, 5-London 1:01.72
500 freestyle: 1-Geppert 5:45.77, 3-Elg 6:04.09, 4-Jenny Boran (B) 6:10.87
200 free relay: 1-Brainerd (Nelson, Larson, Reese, Elg) 1:48.02, 3-Brainerd (Schindler, Erickson, Wentworth, London) 1:51.89, 5-Brainerd (Nikki Hanson, Courtney Jindra, Katie Mahle, Boran) 2:03.16
100 backstroke: 1-Pendergrass 1:07.12, 2-Wernberg 1:09.90, 5-Panzer 1:12.34, 6-Gramer 1:16.93
100 breaststroke: 1-Reese 1:13.29, 5-Erickson 1:20.18, 6-Boland 1:21.14
400 free relay: 1-Fergus Falls 3:58.70, 2-Brainerd (Geppert, London, Wernberg, Nelson) 4:01.02, 4-Brainerd (Wentworth, Panzer, Nikki Hanson, Schindler) 4:18.24, 5-Brainerd (Mahle, Dayna Raboin, Brianna Hanson, Boran) 4:28.61
MIKE BIALKA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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