Jessica Garvey

McFarland High School girls swimming coach Jessica Garvey reacts after being receiving the second-place trophy at Friday night's WIAA Division 2 girls state swimming meet. The Spartans had 163.5 team points as Madison Edgewood coasted to the championship with 290 points.

Entering Friday night’s WIAA Division 2 girls state swimming meet, McFarland High School head coach Jessica Garvey knew Madison Edgewood would be a tough team to take down. 

The Crusaders’ juggernaut won five races and 11 swimmers earned top-five finishes for a first-place total of 290 points.

But McFarland pulled through with some key finishes and walked away with second place with 163.5 points, ahead of third-place Ashwaubenon with 141, fourth-place Shorewood with 125 and fifth-place Rhinelander 118.

“It was really close between Ashwaubenon and Shorewood. We knew there was a chance. We just didn’t know how the meet was going to shake out,” said Garvey, as she clutched the second-place trophy with enormous pride. “I was so happy with how much of a team effort it was.”

McFarland entered the season with question marks after the graduation of Alex Moderski, winner of multiple state titles. Despite that huge loss, a number of Spartan swimmers step up and led the team to seven dual conference victories and a second-place finish to Madison Edgewood in the Badger South Conference meet. Friday night, the hard work and determination shown throughout the season paid off for a number of McFarland swimmers.

One of the Spartans better showings came in the 200-yard medley relay as the foursome of sophomore Mara Freeman, seniors Ella Weaver and Emily Landwehr and sophomore Emily Schoenbrodt ended with a time of 1:47.20, less than three seconds shy of the Crusaders’ winning time of 1:44.51.

Freeman also came through with a second place finish in the 100-backstroke as her time of 55.68 was less than a second behind winner Malia Francis of Rhinelander.  

“I knew I was up against some amazing girls, and that I would have to give it my all,” Freeman said. “I was really happy with my time because it was the best time for me ever. I knew it would come down to details.”  McFarland senior Abigail Harrington finished the race in 11th place.

The Spartans also cashed in big time in the 100-breaststroke as Landwehr was second, just .82 seconds in back of winner Ella Houwers of Whitewater. Weaver was third and sophomore Laura Billman earned valuable points for McFarland by finishing eighth.

Landwehr tied for third place with Madison Edgewood freshman Izzy Enz in the 100-butterfly as both had a time of 58.09.

Freeman also earned a sixth-place podium finish in the 100-freestyle by finishing the distance in 52.31. Ellery Ottem of River Falls won in 50.70, and Madison Edgewood’s Abby Reid and Maeve O’Driscoll finished second and third respectively.

The Spartans did well in the tournament’s final event, the 400-freestyle relay, as sophomore Adriana Nickels, freshman Sofia Alf, Landwehr and Freeman took fifth place in 3:38.22. Madison Edgewood won the race in 3:29.54.

The Spartans will lose three seniors to graduation including Landwehr, Weaver and Harrington but will return a number of experienced underclassmen, who played a significant role on this year’s team.

Landwehr said pulling out a second place finish was an exciting way to cap off her high school swimming career.

“That is huge for all of us. I really enjoyed spending time with the girls and we all had so much fun together,” Landwehr said. “We all swam super fast and swam for each other.”

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