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Suominen medals at state

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Makayla Suominen looks up at the board after securing the top spot in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.37 during Friday's Class A state swimming preliminaries at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Joe Brown/Forum News Service1 / 2
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Makayla Suominen heads to the front of the pack for a second-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle during Friday's Class A state swimming prelims at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Joe Brown/Forum News Service2 / 2

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton junior Makayla Suominen wasn't able to repeat as 50-yard freestyle Minnesota state swimming champion, but had a strong showing nevertheless at last weekend's state swimming and diving meet at the University of Minnesota.

Suominen, who entered Saturday's finals seeded first, was out-touched at the finish by Hutchinson eighth-grader Grace Hanson. Suominen's time of 23.43 seconds was slightly slower than the 23.37 she swam in prelims but was just a hair short of the time needed to become one of the very few northeastern Minnesota athletes to successfully defend a state championship.

Suominen said there was some added pressure this year because now she was a known threat, versus last year where no one knew who she was.

"But every year you learn something new," Suominen said. "This year I learned how big the mental aspect is in swimming ... but also through dealing with some mental stuff I was able to go down there and give it my all and have good results. I am faster than I was last year so I consider it a win."

Suominen finished in a dead heat for third place in her other specialty event, the 100-yard freestyle. In that race, another Hutchinson youngster, sophomore Lexi Kucera, won in 51.12 seconds. Suominen touched in 51.89 seconds, tying her with Visitation sophomore Ava Hoffman for third place. Again, Suominen was faster in preliminaries, with a 51.46 time on Friday that had her seeded second for the finals race.

CEC swim coach Kayla Cotner said state went well for her girls.

"Makayla put up a good fight in the 50- and 100-free on Saturday," Cotner said. "She swam her fastest times of the season Friday, setting two new school records. And Julie Vilanova had great 50 breastroke split in the 200 medley on Friday."

On Friday, the 200-yard individual medley relay team, which qualified for state by finishing second at the section meet, finished 21st in a 26-team state field.

The team of sophomore Maddie Dostal, Vilanova, senior Rachel Gorski and Suominen swimming the anchor leg finished in a time of 1:54.06, not qualifying for finals.

That said, Suominen's individual points allowed CEC to finish 20th in the team standings with a score of 32.5.

Coach Cotner was pleased with the Lumberjacks' showing at state.

"I'm very proud of the girls and couldn't be happier," she said. "It was not what we wanted, but Makayla is a fighter and she is more determined than ever to come back and get back her title."

Suominen echoed that thought.

"I am excited for senior year where I can just go down there and give it all I've got for the last time and see where that takes me," Suominen said.