Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's swim relay team is rising to the topVeteran swimmers Kayla Whipple, Alison Denman and Kristina Erickson knew if they found a fourth teammate this fall, their 200-yard freestyle relay team could do some major damage in the pool. Lexus Wysocki has been a perfect fit.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – Veteran swimmers Kayla Whipple, Alison Denman and Kristina Erickson knew if they found a fourth teammate this fall, their 200-yard freestyle relay team could do some major damage in the pool.
Lexus Wysocki has been a perfect fit.
In her first year with the talented Cloquet-Esko-Carlton relay squad, the Cloquet freshman has not just filled the void of Aimee Goldschmidt who graduated last year, but even impressed her new teammates since her first relay in Two Harbors in September.
“To be honest, we put a lot of pressure on her that first meet,” said Whipple, a senior. “Then she got in the water and pulled ahead of all of the girls, and it was like ‘Whoa.’ She stepped up.”
Wysocki remembers that first relay vividly.
“I was shaking,” Wysocki said, remembering she read her name on the varsity lineup before the race. “I was like ‘I’ve never swam this before.’”
The rookie’s quick adaptation to relay racing has only boosted her teammates’ confidence. That, mixed with their experience of Whipple, Denman and Erickson – who have a combined 10 years on the squad – has made CEC a top-notch contender in their most-competitive event.
“That’s their race,” said CEC Coach Stacia Grayson. “They get up, get going and get excited for it. The whole team gets excited for it.”
Recently, the quad posted a victory in their home dual with Duluth Denfeld last week, eventually propelling CEC to a 48-46 victory.
It was CEC’s first team win in recent memory.
“It was like a party in here,” Denman laughed.
“I’ve never heard this pool so loud,” added Whipple.
A year ago with Goldschmidt, the relay was just seconds away from qualifying for state. This fall, they’ve won three of their five dual meets and brought home a
medal from all three of their invitational competitions.
Junior speedster Denman is the leadoff swimmer, followed by Wysocki and then Erickson, a junior. Whipple, who has been on the team for six years now, serves as the squad’s anchor and a team co-captain.
“We finally found that right combination last year and just starting winning,” said Whipple, one of 32 swimmers on the CEC squad.
“We just starting winning medals,” added Erickson.
CEC’s fastest 200 relay time a year ago was 1 minute, 50.63 seconds. This fall, they’re already within a second-and-a-half of that mark and still have over a month of racing left to go. They might even come close to the school record of 1:46.57 set in 2006.
“I’m very happy with how they’re swimming,” said Grayson. “They seem to be able to turn it on when they need. It can be really exciting.”
Denman said their success starts with their group’s confidence.
“We always pump up to a favorite song together or do these little cheers and stuff,” said Denman, who battles an over-used shoulder and tendonitis in her ankle. “It’s so special. We’re representing Cloquet in swimming.”
Denman explained that their squad has improved over the summer, when all four teammates trained at the North Shore Swim Club at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where they would swim, work on dry-land training, lift weights and perfect their techniques for hours a week, three months long.
“You have to wake up at like 5:30,” Denman laughed. “But it’s helped.”
With training comes success. And with success has come more fans.
The girls took notice that more people are filling Herb Drew Pool on race nights nowadays.
“Cloquet isn’t known for swimming, we’re not like other popular sports,” said Whipple, “but people are starting to recognize the swim team now. We have people standing during our relay. Usually that doesn’t happen.”
Denman said things can get pretty
“We bring the audience to their feet,” she said with a laugh. “There’s more purple in our stands. We’re not used to that at all, but we like it.”
Yet the team isn’t perfect. Grayson knows things can tighten up a bit.
“There’s definitely room for improvement,” she said. “They have to work on their exchanges and turns. We can still drop a few seconds.”
“We need to work on our starts,” she said, honestly.
“Not breathing,” added Wysocki with a laugh. “It’s over-rated.”
Although they still feel the nerves heading up to each race, the bunch is calm, cool and collected once they hit the water.
“You can tell, the coaches are staring us down, they’re expecting us to win,” said Whipple. “But then it’s just like ‘Let’s do this.’”
And although they most recently lost at arch rival Duluth East Tuesday night, the quartet of confident swimmers might just make it to the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center come mid-November.
“Hopefully,” all four girls said together, confidently.
“If they’re on, I’d never say no,” added Grayson. “We’d have to have a perfect swim, but I definitely think it’s
Especially with these four.