BOYS SWIMMING AND DIVING: Bemidji perseveres through week-long shutdown – Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – A week off in the midst of a season is disruptive for most sports. But for swimming and diving, it can be catastrophic.

“There was a lot of anxiety (from) some of our top guys.” said Bemidji High School boys co-head coach Woody Leindecker. And if we were out of the water for nine days, which would have been the total, their season would have been over.”

The Lumberjacks were prevented from utilizing their home facility due to Bemidji Area Schools’ decision to cancel all school and activities from Jan. 18-22 because of COVID-19 cases and other illnesses affecting staffing levels across the district.

Instead, BHS traveled to Fosston and Park Rapids to stay in shape. It paid off when they were able to return home on Monday, especially with a meet against Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday.

Bemidji senior Max Brown takes a breath in the 500-yard freestyle against Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“In this sport, a conditioning sport, it takes forever to get (conditioned) and it doesn’t take long to lose it,” Leindecker said. “And that’s what we were looking at.”

The Jacks dropped the meet to the mighty Sabres, losing 110-57 at the BHS pool. But it was most important to the Bemidji swimmers that they had the opportunity to maintain their stamina and keep competing as the section meet nears.

“Coming back to our pool was just a true blessing,” junior Walker Erickson said. “It was so nice to finally swim back in our pool.”

Erickson had the best day of any Lumberjack, finishing first in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:10.21 and in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.65. He also joined Brooks Matetich, Moses Son and Aidan Wolf to finish on top in the 200-yard freestyle relay at 1:34.67, three hundredths of a second faster than the second-place finishers.

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Bemidji senior Brooks Matetich swims the 100-yard butterfly against Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Matetich finished second in the 200 individual medley (2:15.15) and 100 butterfly (59.25). He joined Erickson, Son and Wolf to place second in the 400 freestyle relay at 3:37.28.

Max Brown, Hudson Hanschen, Nick Carlson and Noah Gustafson rounded out Bemidji’s top-two finishes with a penultimate placement in the 200 medley relay (2:23.48).

Erickson noted how practicing in unfamiliar pools forced the Jacks to repeatedly adapt their training, as the particulars of each pool are different.

“It was a real struggle not having the same pool that we’re used to,” Erickson said. “We had to practice elsewhere, and their pools were a lot different. The lighting is a big factor just on your mentality and how you race in general. And sometimes the middle (of the lane) is not where it normally is.”

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Bemidji senior Noah Gustafson swims his length of the 200-yard medley relay against Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

BHS faced a suboptimal situation with only one home practice before facing Sartell-St. Stephen. The Lumberjacks look forward to having their preferred pool to train in moving forward.

“It was really hard to just do one practice and then go back right into it,” Erickson said. “And it really shows how important practice is, even if it’s not in the same pool. It really sets your standards on where you will be and where you could be.”

As Bemidji reads for sections on Feb. 25, the Jacks simply hope they’ll be able to train uninterrupted as they prepare to taper and cut their times down.

“(Our outlook is) good, as long as we can stay in and not have any more interruptions,” Leindecker said. “We had a mixed bag tonight. You could tell some guys were a little rusty.”

Bemidji returns to competition against Sauk Center/Melrose at 6 pm on Friday, Jan. 28, back at the BHS pool.

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The Lumberjacks cheer during the 500-yard freestyle against Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

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Bemidji senior Aidan Wolf cheers for a teammate in a meet against Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

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