Skimming through the heat sheets for the girls state swimming and diving championships, you don’t need long to notice a trend in lanes 4, 5 and 6.
Behind many of those names in the lanes reserved for the fastest swimmers are the numbers 09 or 10, signifying freshmen and sophomores, along with a fair helping of 11s.
Those numbers signal a wave of change that began to rise a year ago: younger swimmers quickly moving up the season leader charts.
Many of these youngsters are from Lincoln, but the metro Omaha area also has its share of talented young female swimmers ready to make their mark when racing begins Friday at the Devaney Center in Lincoln.
“A lot of swimmers are coming in a lot more prepared because they’re doing different sports, cross training and getting some solid coaching in everything,” Lincoln Northeast coach Kyle Hunt said. “A lot of the credit also should go to the dedication of the families, bringing them to early morning practices, driving them to meets.”
Three freshmen enter the state meet with the fastest time in one of their events: Elizabeth Amato-Hanner of Omaha Westside (200-yard individual medley), Hannah Robison of Omaha Burke (100 freestyle) and Emma Vertin of Lincoln Southwest (100 backstroke).
In their second events, Amato-Hanner is ranked fifth in the 100 butterfly, Robison is third in the 50 free and Vertin is seeded fifth in the 200 IM.
Southwest junior Aimee Fischer is the only swimmer to lead the field in two events — the 200 and 500 freestyles. Fellow juniors Laura Miksch of Columbus (50 free) and Sophia Nelson of Southwest (100 breaststroke) also are the top seeds in their events. Nelson is seeded second in the 200 IM.
The lone senior chart-topper is Millard West’s Erin Oeltjen in the 100 butterfly. She won that event as a sophomore.
Many of those leaders’ closest pursuers also are underclassmen. Lincoln East sophomore Lexi Altmaier is seeded second in the 200 free and sixth in the 500 free and finished fourth at the Class A state cross country meet in October.
other young swimmers looking to climb the medal stand next weekend include the McCullough sisters of Papillion-La Vista/Papio South, sophomore Brianna and freshman Jordan; freshman Alexa Goldenstein of Southwest; and sophomores Karlie O’Connell of Kearney and Bryn Lohrberg of Elkhorn/Elkhorn South.
Lincoln Northeast’s Hunt coaches another of those fast freshmen — Linzie Kreizel. Kreizel is seeded fourth in the 200 free and fifth in the 500 free.
“She’s 100 percent dialed in as a freshman,” Hunt said. “Linzie has a pretty serious businesslike approach to swimming. We sat down in September and made a four-year plan, put it in place, and decided we would roll with any changes.
“Every single practice, if I say sprint, she sprints. If I say do 200 easy, she does 200 easy, not 100. With a family that’s faith-based, and parents who are supportive and helpful, all of that positive success is going to be easier to obtain.”
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