The Sun Prairie girls swim team had a September to remember, winning all four of its Big Eight Conference duals and taking first in two invites. But now that the calendar has turned to October, the Lady Cardinals know the biggest challenges of their already sterling 2019 season lie ahead.
Four first-place finishes led the Cardinals to 352 points at Saturday’s Middleton Pineapple Relays, but for the first time this season they didn’t take first, finishing just 10 points behind the host and defending WIAA Division 1 state champion Cardinals.
“It’s always OK when something like that happens,” said Sun Prairie head coach Nancy Harms. “It’s a lot of pressure when you win, win, win; it changes the team attitude. This is a tough time of the season, and I feel these are the toughest two weeks.”
Looking ahead, Sun Prairie will host Middleton in a key Big Eight dual this Friday before competing in the Homestead Invitational in Mequon Saturday.
“Because of timing, that Homestead meet is the toughest one of the year,” Harms said.
Sun Prairie opened the meet with the first of those four wins dominating the 200-yard medley relay. The team of Olivia Sala, Janelle Schulz, Cassidy Carey and Sophie Fiske blew by the field in 1 minute, 48.48 seconds.
Another first was claimed by the 400 IM team of Fiske, Oliva Sala, Grace Sala and Schulz in 4:03.26.
The 50-100-50-100 crescendo foursome of Olivia Sala, Carey, Fiske and Grace Sala also topped the field, winning in 2:25.75.
And the fourth first came in the final race of the day, the 400 freestyle relay. Bree Moericke, Hannah Marshall, Ruthie Pavelski and Tori Barnet won in 3:17.14.
The Cardinals showed their depth with two seconds, a third and two fourth-place finishes.
The 300 backstroke team of Ella Gunnink, Olivia Sala, Paige Rundahl and Carey finished second in 2:54.04, while the 300 breaststroke foursome of Brooke Laube, Grace Sala, Ella Gunnink and Schulz touched in 3:23.94 to earn a runner-up placing.
Finishing third was the 200 freestyle relay of Marshall, Rundahl, Barnet and Moericke, in 1:41.43.
And placing fourth were the 800 freestyle relay of Marshall, Barnet, Carey and Moericke (8:08.66) and 100 medley relay of Grundahl, Gunnink, Pavelski and Brielle Laube (:56.87).
Team scores: Middleton 362, Sun Prairie 352, Verona 310, Madison Memorial 288, Stevens Point 260, Madison West, 254, McFarland 236, Beloit Memorial 224, Madison East 160.
SUN PRAIRIE 135
MADISON EAST 31
Carey was part of four wins in Friday’s convincing Big Eight dual win over host Madison East. The senior won the 50 freestyle (:25.74) and 500 freestyle (5:21.99), then teamed with Gunnink, Schulz and Brielle Laube in winning the 200 medley relay (1:54.11) and joined Gunnink, Schulz and Brooke Laube for a victory in the 400 freestyle relay (3:46.76).
“We’re not swimming record-setting times right now, but I think we had over the weekend several swimmers that shined. Cassidy Carey did very well both Friday night and Saturday in all of her events, and Janelle Schulz swam really tough,” said Harms. “Some kids are in great shape for sprinting and some are in great shape for mid-distance, and those kids are the ones that are going to shine a little more because their bodies can manage this kind of hard work.”
Harms also mentioned freshman Olivia Sala: “She’s just been swimming really tough.”
Gunnink and Schulz also earn individual wins. Gunnink won the 100 backstroke (1:02.38) while Schulz took top honors in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.75).
Fiske was a three-time winner, taking first in the 200 IM (2:14.65) and 100 butterfly (:59.35) before teaming up with Barnet, Marshall and Rundahl in winning the 200 freestyle relay in 1:40.72).
The Cardinals also had freestyle wins from Oliva Sala (2:04.68, 200 free) and Grace Sala (:55.72, 100 free).
It will be another busy weekend for the SP swimmers. On Friday, they host Middleton in a 5 p.m. Big Eight start, before competing in the Homestead Invitational on Saturday. Swimming begins at 10 a.m. in Mequon.