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CEC's Erickson leads by example

With a muscular 5-foot-9 physique atop the platform in her swimsuit and cap, Kristina Erickson appears to be the quintessential swimmer. Captain of the Lumberjacks this fall, Erickson has been a consistent force for Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, while th...

And they're off!
Swimmers dive off the starting blocks during Tuesday's meet at Cloquet Middle School. Jamie Lund/PIne Journal

With a muscular 5-foot-9 physique atop the platform in her swimsuit and cap, Kristina Erickson appears to be the quintessential swimmer.

Captain of the Lumberjacks this fall, Erickson has been a consistent force for Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, while the 17-year-old's constant longevity in the program since seventh grade has helped her mature into a leader.

"Kristina has kind of been the rock for our team," said fourth-year CEC Coach Stacia Grayson. "She's always working hard, helping others and leading by example. She gets practice going and gives tips to the younger girls. She's the first one in the pool and the last one out."

Erickson was again in the pool Tuesday evening when the Lumberjacks lost 58-36 to rival Duluth East in a competitive girls swimming dual at Herb Drew Pool at the Cloquet Middle School.

A freestyle speedster, the Cloquet senior uses her tall frame to compete in the 50- and 200-yard individual races, as well as the 200- and 400-yard relays. Erickson was strong again Tuesday, along with her teammates, including Cloquet sophomore and relay anchor Lexus Wysocki.

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Teammates for four years, Wysocki described Erickson as a devoted swimmer who doesn't like being away from the water long.

"She doesn't care if she's sick or injured, she's always in the pool working hard," Wysocki said of her relay mate. "She's very dedicated. For her to get out of the pool, it has to be something pretty serious."

Erickson said her swim career began as a youth at Red Cross swimming lessons in town. In middle school, she said her family gave her the idea to compete for a team.

"My parents convinced me to try out in seventh grade and I just fell in love," Erickson said. "Now, after a long day of school, I just jump into the pool. I can't think of any negatives about it. I love it."

Erickson's involvement in the sport has grown over time. A former backstroke swimmer, Erickson has become a full-time freestyler this autumn. Also a winter wrestler, she said the stroke change has helped her in many ways.

"I definitely prefer freestyle; it's the fastest stroke, and I'm just not as skilled at the other strokes," Erickson said. "And now, I have more time at meets because events are spread out more for me."

Grayson explained that fellow feature swimmers this season include Wysocki, Cloquet senior captains Johnna Bottila and Hannali Takkunen and Esko freshman phenomenon Anna Wodny. Grayson said CEC sports 35 total swimmers - mostly younger - who are constantly learning, improving and cutting down their event times.

Quickening their results has come with help of junior varsity coach Emily Michell and volunteer coach Tom Cannon, who formerly coached teams in Monticello, Minn., for close to three decades, Grayson said.

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"He has a cabin in Barnum and comes in about three or four times per week," Grayson said of Cannon. "We're real lucky to have him. He's been great and the girls really have an attachment to him."

That includes both Erickson and Wysocki. Erickson said she appreciates Cannon's different thought process and constant reminding, while Wysocki marvels at the laundry list of knowledge Cannon has.

"He knows a lot about the strokes and their techniques," said Wysocki, who will next compete with CEC Thursday hosting Superior at Herb Drew Pool at 5 p.m., before next traveling to juggernaut Grand Rapids late next week. "And he helps with our positioning, turns and breathing."

Much alike her good friend, Erickson.

"She's not a slow swimmer and always gives us a good chance to get first place," Wysocki said of their captain, "but if something is wrong, she'll go out of harm's way to make things better. She's always there for us."

Kaydie Wagar
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Kaydie Wagar, a junior, competes in the freestyle relay in Tuesday's home against Duluth East. The Lumberjacks fell 58-36 to the Greyhounds. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

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