MHS swimmers excited to compete

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Kaitlyn Peters and Middleton’s girls swimming team are excited to begin their new season./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

They are starting six months later than a normal year.

Most competitions will be dual meets spread across two days. And there won’t be any invitationals this season.

Despite the changes, though, Middleton’s girls swimming team is simply thrilled to be competing. The Cardinals will be at Oshkosh West Saturday for their first meet of the new season and believe they have the makings for another strong year.

“The girls were so excited to have an opportunity to swim this spring,” Cardinals coach Lauren Cabalka said. “Naturally there is some apprehension and feelings of uncertainty since we are not used to swimming in the middle of winter or under these unique circumstances, but the general mood is one of gratitude and excitement. 

“When the newest PHMDC guidelines were released, we were able to create a training environment that is very similar to what we would typically put together, giving us that feeling of normalcy.”

Middleton’s season typically runs from August until November. Due to COVID-19, though, the WIAA provided a second season that runs until April 5 — and the Cardinals chose that option.

Middleton began daily practices on Feb. 15, and in the last week-and-a-half, Cabalka has seen a lot to be fired up about.

“It's hard to know what the season will bring,” Cabalka said. “It's pretty much a ‘wait and see’ type of expectation as far as where and when we will be able to compete. Things are changing every day and we're moving forward with patience and grace and focusing on what we can do rather than dwelling on what we can't. 

“We have a great crop of returning swimmers who came back to us swimming really well.  We know we will have limited opportunities to compete before a possible post-season meet (sectionals, state), so we are going to have to be laser-focused on creating our best lineups and figuring out who fits best where in this season's puzzle. 

“The girls will have to take full advantage of any opportunity they are given and I know they are up for the challenge. In a typical season, we have time to play around with lineups, events and relay teams, but we just won't have that luxury this year. We will have to be creative with practices and really intentional when writing lineups throughout the next six weeks.”

Middleton won three consecutive state championships from 2016-18, then finished sixth in 2019. Approximately three quarters of the state competed in swimming last fall, so it’s uncertain how the spring postseason will look.

What Cabalka does know is she has a talented group back from the fall of 2019 and several newcomers with tremendous potential.

Senior Kaitlyn Peters is a two-time state qualifier, Middleton’s top swimmer in the butterfly and a highly versatile performer within the Cardinals’ lineup. 

“I can pretty much put her in any event and count on her to score points for our team,” Cabalka said of Peters. “She is the type of swimmer and leader that every team needs and someone who we will really lean on as we go through the unknowns of this season. Don't be surprised to see her as a four-event swimmer at our final meet of the season.”

Sophomore Natalie Charles reached the state tournament in the 200-yard individual medley back in 2019 and appears ready for bigger and better things.

“She is a workhorse in the water and always focused on improvement,” Cabalka said of Charles. “Natalie is someone who never complains and sees the good in any situation and I think she will thrive in the unknown. 

“She will be one of our top IM’ers and breaststrokers, which is a hole we need to fill on the medley relay. I'm confident she will end this season with some of her best times yet.”

Junior Amanda George is a two-time state qualifier and one of the Cardinals’ top distance swimmers.

“This is the best I have seen her swim at the start of a season and we are expecting big things from her,” Cabalka said of George. “She came back incredibly poised and has been an amazing leader for our young crew and I have a feeling this is going to be a breakout year for her.”

Junior Molly Haag was 14th at state in the 500-yard freestyle in 2019 and should be an anchor in the distance events.

“Although she excels in the longer events, she is also highly versatile,” Cabalka said of Haag. “Her sprinting has come a long way since November of 2019 and she could certainly find her way onto some of our relay teams. Molly came back as a calmer and more confident version of herself and I'm really excited to see what she is able to do this season.”

Juniors Abby Utter and Ella Needham will lead Middleton in sprint and mid-distance freestyle events, and also be major contributors to the relay lineups. Senior Maddy Lawn and sophomore Sophie Benson are also returning state qualifiers.

Freshmen Kaitlin Haag and Lily Mair have made an immediate impact on the Cardinals.

“(Kaitlin) is a talented distance swimmer and all-around hard worker, both in and out of the pool,” Cabalka said. “She will certainly add to the depth of our distance crew and has already done a great job of jumping right in.

“Lily is a talented backstroker and sprint freestyler, which are weaker spots in our lineup. She will provide some help on relay teams as well as individual events.”

Sophomore Amanda Beckman did not swim with the Cardinals as a freshman, but seems poised to make a major splash.

“Amanda … is incredibly talented and highly versatile,” Cabalka said. “We will be able to use her in multiple areas of our lineup and count on her for points every meet. She has great work ethic and is always up for a challenge.”

The Cardinals know this season will present challenges unlike any other year. But after being in limbo for months, Middleton is just glad to be competing — and whatever happens, happens.

“We know this season is unique and not without challenges, but isn't every season?” Cabalka said. “Seasons rarely go 100% according to plan and you're always making adjustments, dealing with setbacks and growing along the way. So, in a way, it's business as usual. 

“We will set goals, work hard to achieve them, deal with setbacks as they come and end the season stronger and more resilient than where we started. We will not focus on the things we cannot change — COVID, guidelines, who is swimming and who isn't — and instead, focus on what we can control: our attitude, our effort and having some fun along the way.”



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