Girls swimming preview: Diving added after pool renovations
This year's Hastings swimming team will look a lot different than in year's past.
For starters, the team is no longer just a swimming team - it's a swimming and diving team.
Thanks to an extensive renovation of the pool at Hastings Middle School, diving has returned to Hastings.
The pool work is nearly complete. Work needs to be done to the locker rooms and there are some loose ends to tie up here and there, but everything should be ready to go over the next week.
"It's getting there," coach Katie McAlpin said. "It looks totally different in there. Everything is white - it looks really big. The water is really clean, too."
Hastings hired school record holder Brianna Arness to coach diving this year. Gone are the days where Hastings would have to forfeit in diving and lose 12 points in every meet.
"It has been really fun to watch these divers start," McAlpin said. "Things have been going really well so far."
A pair of sophomores, Jorey Molitor and Britta Johnson, bring a gymnastics background to diving.
"They have the flipping part down, but it's fun to watch them try to go in head first," McAlpin said. "They're taught, obviously, to land on their feet."
Captains for Hastings this year are Abbie Gjelhaug, Christina Gillard and Mariah Wallace.
Gjelhaug returns with state meet experience. She is a distance freestyler, whose best events are the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle.
Gillard will add some depth to the team, McAlpin said. Last season, Gillard qualified for the section finals.
"She's a really good leader," McAlpin said. "She's really organized. She's good at getting the girls to do what we need them to."
Wallace qualified for the section finals last year, too.
"She was in her sister Leah's shadow last year," McAlpin said. "That won't be the case this year - that's really nice."
Hastings has just one senior - Kate Reilly. She excelled in the sprint freestyles last year, earning the team's MVP award and swimming at the state meet in the 50 and the 100 freestyles. She placed fourth in the 50 and eighth in the 100.
Sophomore Brina Kari returns with state meet experience, too.
She placed seventh in the 100 backstroke.
Allissa Smith also qualified for the state meet last year, placing ninth in the 100 butterfly as an eighth-grader.
There are a total of six juniors, eight sophomores, 13 freshmen, two eighth-graders and one seventh-grader on varsity this year.
The 31 athletes make up the biggest team at Hastings since about 2000.
"It's great having this many people," McAlpin said. "It's going to be really weird writing lineups. Usually you can only do so much - this year we fill up a junior varsity lineup, too. My entire time coaching, I don't ever remember filling a full lineup for varsity and junior varsity."
Hastings has a good chance to win a conference title this year, and they'll learn right away how good their odds are. Their biggest competition this season appears to be Stillwater, and Hastings meets the Ponies in the pool on Thursday, Sept. 6.
"We have a really good chance to win the conference, and a lot of it will come down to that Stillwater meet," McAlpin said. "That will be our first meet in our new pool. Everyone is going to be riled up and ready for that. In order to have a good chance to win the conference, we have to win that meet."
Woodbury and East Ridge also figure to be factors in the Suburban East Conference race.
Hastings hasn't won a conference title since 1996.
Hastings swimmers have planned a number of fundraiser this season. The team has a trip to Winona planned for the section true team meet, and they need funds to offset the expenses of the trip.
A car wash is set for 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sept. 8 at Culver's.
A spaghetti dinner at the 2nd Street Depot in downtown Hastings is planned for 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sept. 10.
The team is also selling candy bars.