Agates sink CECIn Tuesday night’s home-opening dual with Two Harbors at Herb Drew Pool, the Lumberjacks were sunk by the visiting Agates 55-38.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Alison Denman described being in water “like flying.” So when the Cloquet senior underwent season-ending knee surgery last week, it was like bringing her girls swimming career to crash.
A swimmer since middle school, Denman started experiencing knee pain last spring. After physical therapy, cortisone shots, an ultrasound and a pair of Magnetic Resonance Imaging tests, the 17-year-old had surgery at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet last Thursday.
“The plica bands in my knee were way too big and they trimmed them down,” Denman said Monday. “I was going to miss six weeks. Then, after surgery, I decided I wasn’t going to swim this year.”
That’s unfortunate for Cloquet-Esko-Carlton this fall. A varsity swimmer since seventh grade, Denman was one of the centerpieces of the Lumberjacks’ relay teams and specialized in the 200-yard individual medley, incorporating all four major swimming strokes.
Fourth-year CEC Coach Stacia Grayson swam the same event in high school at White Bear Lake and collegiately at the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse. She explained the alternating strokes can be difficult and take a toll on a swimmer’s body over time.
“It’s a tough event that’s tough to master,” she said. “For high school swimmers, it’s definitely one of the harder ones.”
Along with her right knee injury, Denman also battled a pair of worn-down shoulders over her five years of competition.
“It’s a bummer,” said Grayson, “I hope she can continue to swim.”
Denman swam for the first couple of weeks of practice in August; however, she was not in her swim cap and suit for Tuesday night’s home-opening dual with Two Harbors at Herb Drew Pool, as the Lumberjacks were sunk by the visiting Agates 55-38.
Grayson said that CEC will look to replace Denman and graduate Kayla Whipple with another young team this fall. She said 34 girls are swimming for both the junior varsity and varsity teams, including Cloquet senior varsity captain Kristina Erickson.
Erickson races the 50- and 200-yard freestyle, along with the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay. She’s been on the varsity since she was a freshman and will be aided by fellow senior captains Johnna Bottila and Hannali Takkunen, as well as Cloquet sophomore Lexus Wysocki and Esko freshman Anna Wodney.
“We lost some girls, but gained another solid crew,” Grayson said. “We’ve always been strong in our free sprints and back stokes, and free relays. We’re seeing where we’re at, but I hope it goes well.”
“We have a lot of young girls who are showing some promise,” added Erickson. “We’re working hard, pushing each other and improving. It’s exciting, but sad because it’s my senior season.”
Unfortunately, Denman can’t say the same.
“She’s a very good swimmer and a crucial part of our team,” Erickson said of her classmate. “She’s going to be missed, not only as a teammate, but as a friend. No one really can replace her.”
“I’ll probably go to a few home meets, but it will be hard,” Denman added. “Everyone has that one thing they love to do. Swimming has been my life since seventh grade. I’m going to miss it a lot. But when one door closes another one opens.”