Crookston girls' swimming season in review
Just being in the pool at all was a blessing for the Crookston girls' swimming team this season.
For years, the Pirates have survived by the skin of their teeth, barely mustering the minimum number of swimmers necessary to have a program. This summer, the Pirates not only stared down this uncertain future, but had to deal with anxiety over COVID-19 and whether, as an indoor sport, the Minnesota State High School League would allow them to compete.
Ultimately, Crookston added four new swimmers to the roster, and the MSHSL okayed swimming in August. The Pirates swam exclusively dual meets during the regular season, and with just 11 swimmers in all, they were essentially ruled out of any chance to pick up team victories.
But that didn't stop Crookston's swimmers from improving individually. Seventh-grader Chloe Boll, for example, dropped almost two minutes off her 500-meter freestyle time from the start to the end of the season. Boll and the other new members of the team — seventh-graders Lucy Smith and Mya Bower — made strides, as did sophomore Libby Salentine, who had to balance swimming with volleyball from mid-September on.
All along, the Pirates were hoping to shine at the Section 8A meet on Oct. 24. They competed in one of three "pods," swimming in Warroad against the hosts and Thief River Falls, and while they finished last in the section when all the results were tallied, their names still dotted the leaderboards.
Junior Madison Hoiland, who was dominant in the 100-yard breaststroke and 50-yard freestyle after returning from a shoulder injury, placed sixth in the 100 and seventh in the 50. Sophomore Mackenzie Aamoth placed 16th in the 100-yard backstroke, and junior Claire Oman finished 25th in the 200-yard IM. Boll, Naomi Olson and Victoria Proulx also competed at the section meet as individuals.
With the program seemingly on more stable footing, Crookston will hope for more strides in 2021.
- Record: 0-11
- Postseason: 10th at Section 8A Meet
- Top swimmers: Madison Hoiland (sixth at Section 8A meet in 100-yard breaststroke, seventh in 50-yard freestyle), Mackenzie Aamoth (16th in 100-yard backstroke, 21st in 100-yard butterfly), Claire Oman (25th in 200-yard IM, 30th in 100-yard freestyle)
There were no fans in attendance for Crookston's season-opening meet against Fosston-Bagley on Sept. 1. The Pirates fell to the Seals, 104-58. But that hardly mattered compared to the relief of just being back in the water.
"It did bring some stress, because they do love this sport," coach Marley Melbye said that night. "The threat of it not being here was kind of scary."
Aamoth and Hoiland both picked up wins, Aamoth's coming in the 100-meter butterfly and Hoiland's in the 100-meter breaststroke. Oman placed second in the 400-meter freestyle, while Aamoth and Hoiland also had second-place finishes in the 100 backstroke and 100 free, respectively.
Crookston was always aware that 2020 would be a growing year. On that Tuesday night, the Pirates were just thankful it had begun.
Victoria Proulx, who mostly swam the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly and was a key member of both of Crookston's A relay teams, was the lone senior this season. If their current numbers hold, the Pirates will have 10 swimmers next year, two above the threshold needed to compete as a team.
It will be a long time before Crookston's numbers reach the level necessary to compete with section powers Grand Rapids, Detroit Lakes or Park Rapids, if they ever do. But Hoiland has established herself as a swimmer to watch in the 100 breaststroke, having finished in the Top 10 in that event two years in a row at section, and it seems a good bet that Aamoth, Boll, Oman and others keep getting faster.
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