MHS swimmers aim for state title

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton freshman Gabriela Pierobon Mays had a huge day at sectionals.

Maybe, just maybe this is the year.

Middleton’s girls swimming and diving team is about to find out.

The Cardinals won the Middleton Sectional last Saturday with 377 points, edging runner-up Verona-Mount Horeb (363). Madison Memorial (270), Madison West (261) and Sun Prairie (235) rounded out the top five.

Now, Middleton will take aim at the first state title in school history. The state meet begins Saturday at 3 p.m. at the UW Natatorium.

If seedings from sectionals hold firm, Middleton would win the state title in a narrow race over two-time defending state champion Hartland Arrowhead and Verona-Mount Horeb. But Cardinals coach Lauren Cabalka knows full well there’s a major difference between sectionals and state.

“Being seeded first, really doesn't mean much in this sport,” Cabalka said. “So much can happen from sectionals to state. You never know who was tapered from each team and what relay combinations they will put forward. 

“The top three teams are separated by less than 40 points, and that does not factor in diving scores. All three teams have divers, so they will play a huge role in the overall team scores. We've got one exciting meet on our hands where anything can happen.”

The Cardinals emerged as sectional champs thanks to a terrific performance from their relay teams. Middleton won all three relays and will be among the favorites in all three races at state.

Cardinals’ junior Chiara Pierobon Mays, freshman Alex Anagnostopoulos, freshman Gabriela Pierobon Mays and sophomore Makenna Licking were first in the 200-yard medley relay in 1:44.86.

Middleton’s 200-yard freestyle relay team of sophomore Cora Mack, Licking, junior Caroline Hippen and sophomore Hannah Aegerter were first in 1:35.58.

And the Cardinals’ 400-yard freestyle relay team of Aegerter, Hippen, Mack and Gabriela Pierobon Mays won the 400-yard freestyle relay in 3:27.79.

Those times were all No. 1 in the state at sectionals, meaning all three relay teams are seeded first at state.

“The relays stole the show (at sectionals),” Cabalka said. “I knew we could win all three, but had no idea what the girls actually had in store. Those are some fast team and pool records that they broke, so to say they were impressive is a massive understatement. 

“I think it is such a perfect representation of who we are as a team — a team of many individuals who come together rather than a team of a few stars. Of course, we'd love to win all three relays, but we can only control so much. 

“As long as the girls race smart and swim with the energy and determination they swam with on Saturday, it is certainly doable. There are a lot of fast teams out there, thinking the same thing, though.” 

Middleton had several other sensational performances throughout the meet.

Aegerter won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:52.22, while Hippen was third (1:52.93) and Licking was sixth (1:55.28). Aegerter is now seeded third at state, while Hippen is seeded seventh and Licking is 18th.

Gabriela Pierobon Mays won the 100-yard butterfly in 55.44, while junior Chiara Pierobon Mays was sixth (59.02) and junior Tryn Peterson was 11th (59.94). Gabriela Pierobon Mays is seeded first at state, while Chiara Pierobon Mays is seeded 19th.

“Gabby is an incredible young woman,” Cabalka said. “We knew we were getting a very talented swimmer before she came to us, but I had no idea what a strong, poised, and humble athlete we were gaining. What Gabby does in the water, is truly special. I'm sure anyone who has coached her would tell you the same. 

“She is such a coachable swimmer and someone who is always looking to improve — the type of athlete any coach dreams of. But, her impact out of the water has been immeasurable. When you talk to her, you'd think you are talking to a senior. She is incredibly self-aware, modest and mature and has really carried our team when we've needed it the most.”

Hippen was second in the 100-yard freestyle (52.62), while Mack was third (52.70) and Licking was fourth (52.81). Hippen is the 10th seed at state, while Mack is 12th and Licking is 13th.

Aegerter was second in the 500-yard freestyle (5:01.85) and is now seeded fourth at state. Senior Elise Hokanson was fourth (5:07.73) at sectionals and Margaret McGill was ninth (5:24.51). Hokanson is now seeded 10th at state and McGill is seeded 23rd.

Gabriela Pierobon Mays was second in the 100-yard backstroke (55.94), while Chiara Pierobon Mays was fifth (58.71). Gabriela Pierobon Mays is seeded second at state and Chiara Pierobon Mays is seeded 14th.

Anagnostopoulos was fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:06.58), while Mack was fourth in the 50-yard freestyle (24.22) Mack is seeded ninth at state, while Anagnostopoulos is seeded 14th.

Junior Eleanor Mackey was also second in the diving competition (405.35) and is now seeded 17th at state.

“(Mackey) has been sidelined with an ankle injury for over a month and was able to fight through and put together a solid performance on the board, despite just one week of practice leading up to the meet,” Cabalka said.

In all, Cabalka was thrilled with the Cardinals’ performance at sectionals.

“Every single swim was a season or lifetime best, which makes all of them equally outstanding,” Cabalka said. “Our 200 freestyle group really set the tone for us as far as individual performances go. Those girls were able to prove that you can swim fast, even when you're not fully rested.”

Now, the Cardinals will try for another magical day at state — and hope to bring a championship back to Middleton.

“As we've said all year, we can only control what we can control,” Cabalka said. “I am confident that they will swim and dive their hearts out and leave absolutely everything they have in them in the pool. As long as we do that, we will be proud.”


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