A couple of streaks have been extended for the Forest Lake diving team over the past few weeks. As noted in last week’s issue, a streak of sending someone to state has reached five years, and a streak of sending two divers has been extended to four.
The team now also has a streak of two consecutive seasons in which a Ranger has made it through two rounds of cuts to reach the final round of the event. Senior McKinley Leavitt ended the two-day competition in 14th place with 311.25 points.
“It was a lot of fun to make it past the first day,” Leavitt said, who last year finished 22nd, just shy of the first cut line.
Leavitt and junior Madison Fagerland traveled to the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center for the Class AA diving preliminaries on Nov. 14, having earned their entries by placing third and second, respectively, at the Section 7AA championships on Nov. 8. Four divers qualified from each of eight sections, creating a field of 32 competitors in the opening round of five dives.
Leavitt was drawn into the first position in the lineup, so she was the first diver to step to the board. She set the tone for the early rounds with a 39.60-point execution of a double-somersault dive, a score that helped her hold the overall lead through the first few cycles.
Diving in the middle of the field, Fagerland opened with a forward 1 1/2 somersault worth 28.05.
The class of the field and the overwhelming favorite was Edina senior Megan Phillip, the three-time defending state champion whose 2018 title-winning total (517.00) established an all-time state record. She chipped away at Leavitt’s lead in the early going with the combination of high degrees of difficulty and flawless execution, which has made her a legend in the sport.
Though all competitors would, as expected, be fighting for second place behind Phillip, Leavitt continued to dive well, finishing her first five dives with 163.80 points (fifth place). With the top 20 to survive the first cut, Leavitt was safely through.
Fagerland had stood in eighth place after three dives, but a slow rollover on a back somersault dive resulted in an award of only 6.30 points, and she had no time to recover with only one more dive in the round. Her inward 1 1/2 somersault tuck garnered 30.80 points to bring her total to 131.65, but that only moved her up to 27th place.
Leavitt stayed consistent in the three-dive semifinals, working her score up to 235.50 and 11th place with the first 16 to advance to the finals.
The divers had a day off while the state competition continued with the swimming preliminaries Nov. 15, then they returned to the U pool for their three-dive finals on Nov. 16. Scores from the first eight attempts carried over.
Leavitt performed a reverse tuck (20.80 points), a forward 2 1/2 somersault (21.60) and a two-twist forward somersault (33.35), bringing her overall score to 311.25, placing her 14th in the final standings.
“It wasn’t my best, but I still went out and did all my dives,” Leavitt said.
Phillip did as she has done three times before and claimed the state title, finishing with 493.55 points, outdistancing the runner-up Susanna Fish of Hopkins by nearly 60 points.
Fish herself was head and shoulders above everyone else: Third place was Gabby Mauder of Woodbury with 378.80.
Leavitt’s performance was worth 3 points in the team competition, which would stand as the Rangers’ final score. Of 39 teams that earned at least 1 point, Forest Lake ended 38th; the top four teams were all from the Lake Conference, Edina (344), Minnetonka (305), Eden Prairie (205) and Wayzata (189). Edina’s victory was a testament to their depth: The Hornets only had one other event champion besides Phillip, while runner-up Minnetonka won five events.
Suburban East Conference squad Stillwater finished fifth with 140.5.
Done in 54 seconds: Thiele’s short swim caps years of effort
Around the midpoint of the Class AA state girls swim meet prelims at the University of Minnesota on Nov. 15, Forest Lake senior Ellie Thiele stepped up to the block in lane eight for heat three of the 100-yard freestyle. At the gun, she dove in and swam a length up, a length back, a length up, and then sprinted for the wall. She finished the race in 54.83 seconds, was awarded 21st place, and that was that.
Hardly two minutes of real time passed from when she was called to the start and when she pulled herself out of the pool, having checked her time on the giant scoreboard and congratulated the swimmer next to her. Her senior season of swimming had come to an end.
“Last one, best one!” Thiele said.
Quickly though her actual state swim went by, those 54.83 seconds represented the culmination of years of training, work and effort, which were celebrated in the immediate aftermath of the race with coaches, teammates and a few alumni who came by to cheer her on — alumni from swim teams past and also older sister Maggie, who readers might remember as the longtime leader of the volleyball, basketball and softball teams at North Lakes Academy before she graduated from the charter school in 2018.
“It’s the best feeling ever to have so many people here supporting me,” Thiele said. “I’m so grateful for everything.”
Thiele has been a longtime stalwart of the Ranger team, and her hard work paid off in a big way at the Section 7AA meet on Nov. 9, when she scored a second-place finish in the 100 to earn a trip to state. Her state experience will be a memory to last a lifetime.
“It’s so surreal to be here,” Thiele said. “[During the warmup period] everybody looked like they knew what they were doing and I felt like I was along for the ride.”
In her short burst in the Gopher pool, she swam within two-tenths of a second of her seed time from sections, falling a little short of her goal of setting a new school record. Her name will be on the big board when it is next updated, though, since she was part of a record-setting effort in the 200-yard relay at the section meet, along with McKinley Leavitt, Ella Anderson and Paige Anderson. She also has the honor of being the first Ranger swimmer to reach state since 2014.
“It wasn’t the time I wanted, but I got to swim at state,” Thiele said. “That’s all that matters. It was the best experience.”
The 100-yard freestyle was won by Robbinsdale Armstrong senior Sierra Smith in 50.29. Smith also claimed a title in the 200-yard freestyle. Only one other swimmer won two individual races: Anoka junior Reese Dehen, who took the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley.