Cloquet-Esko-Carlton closes swimming year at sectionsAfter being informed she and her 200-yard freestyle relay team had been disqualified in Saturday’s sectional swimming finals, a saddened Kayla Whipple could have easily neglected to race her best afterward.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
After being informed she and her 200-yard freestyle relay team had been disqualified in Saturday’s sectional swimming finals, a saddened Kayla Whipple could have easily neglected to race her best afterward.
In her last race ever, however, the Cloquet senior did the exact opposite.
Following her team’s premature exchange in the 200 relay leading to elimination, Whipple shaved three seconds off her personal time and helped anchor Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s final leg in their 400-yard freestyle relay second heat win Saturday at the Section 5A meet in Sauk Rapids, Minn.
“I was upset,” recalled Whipple following the disqualification. “But I knew [the 400] was my last race ever and that I had to give it my all. I usually tire out in the final 25 [yards], but I didn’t. And that made things better.”
Just two events before their solid 400 relay race, Whipple and her 200 relay teammates – Alison Denman, Kristina Erickson and Lexus Wysocki – were sorrowfully notified by an official that they were disqualified because of an early handoff, or a false start. It was the Lumberjacks’ top relay team and one of the very few opportunities for the program to qualify for state in recent years.
“At first it was a shock, and then the tears just started flowing,” said Whipple, a captain. “It was really sad.”
“It was a major bummer,” added CEC Coach Stacia Grayson. “It was definitely disappointing, but that happens though.”
Sitting at the other end of the pool, Cloquet senior captain Jolynne Denman watched her younger sister Alison, a junior, in the relay race when the infraction occurred.
“Everything looked good from what I saw,” Jolynne recalled. “But after they were done racing, I could tell they weren’t acting like themselves.”
Right then, the meet official informed them of the news.
“It was really hard,” said Whipple. “We then just got out of the pool, eventually went to the locker room and all started crying.”
Whipple, Wysocki and Alison Denman then returned to the starting blocks to race the 400 relay, winning their heat, quickening their pace by five seconds compared to last Thursday’s preliminary time and even lapping some teams.
“It was good to see them let out their anger and frustration by doing something awesome,” said Jolynne.
Grayson explained that she had earlier rearranged her 200 relay lineup, based on individual times, so that perhaps they could qualify for state.
“That was my call,” she said. “We were just trying to get a faster time. I wasn’t upset at all. It just wasn’t in their cards I guess.”
Although state wasn’t in their cards, the Lumberjacks were far from losers Saturday. Grayson noted that along with the 200 relay qualifying for the section finals, both Wysocki and Alison Denman were solid individually that afternoon.
And let’s not forget their regular season dual victory over Duluth Denfeld back in late September – the first team win in the program’s recent memory.
“I was happy with how our year went, we had a lot of good swims,” said Grayson. “We had some great times throughout the year.”
“Even though we didn’t do that well at sections, we still have memories from this year,” added Jolynne Denman. “We can look back and say ‘Hey, we had a good year.’ We won dual, met new people and had fun
Denman and Whipple are two of four seniors, along with Whitney Wysocki and Cori Pelletier, who will graduate. Yet, according to Grayson, with the upcoming class of swimmers, the program’s future looks bright.
“Those four [seniors] have been here as long as I have,” said Grayson, who just finished her third year with CEC. “We have some young girls coming up with a lot of potential, but those strong senior swimmers will sure be missed.”
Whipple said she has no regrets over her long career. Not even Saturday.
“You win and lose as a team,” she said, as she closed her six-year swimming tenure. “There’s always those tough moments, but we have a lot of positives.”