The Rosemount Irish girls swimming and diving team has continued its conference championship winning streak, which spans two head coaches and the better part of the past decade. The Irish beat Prior Lake at Rosemount Middle School 95-91 to seal its seventh-straight South Suburban Conference championship in a meet that came down to the last event.
Head coach Jake Kemna said that his team came out of the gates slow and quickly went down to Prior Lake through the first couple events.
"We just came in kind of complacent, with no fire, no nothing, and you could tell looking across the pool that Prior Lake had really high energy and were ready to go," he said. "We swam like it in the first half, they (Prior Lake) definitely won that first half."
Rosemount lost three of the first four events before diving and were outscored by Prior Lake 36-26 before diving started.
Kemna said that he and the other coaches planned to address the team after the diving, but the Irish were able to finish first-second-fourth in diving to help spark the team.
"We pulled them aside after diving and told them that the divers started it off for us, they got us back in it, and now it's our turn again, let's swim how we know how to swim," Kemna explained.
The meet came down to the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, where the Irish finished first-fourth-sixth to seal the win.
"At the beginning of the meet I knew it was going to be close all the way through, but I didn't know it was going to be that close," Kemna said. "Honestly, it came down to those last four events."
Winners of events for Rosemount were Cassandra Hutchins in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 59.30 seconds and the 500 freestyle (5:16.73); Andrea Holtz in the 1-meter dive (223.30 points); Anna Wenman in the 100 butterfly (59.11); and Macy Klein in the 100 freestyle (55.25).
In those crucial last four events, the 200 freestyle relay team of Klein, Hutchins, Julia Simms and Taylor Barabash won with a time of 1:40.65. Simms won the 100 backstroke in 1:06.58 and the 400 freestyle relay team of Klein, Hutchins, Wenman and Urkiel (3:40.16).
Second-place finishers were the 200 medley relay team of Wenman, Urkiel, Simms and Barabash (1:52.16); Wenman in the 200 IM (2:15.14); Klein in the 50 freestyle (25.22); Holly Bernadin in diving (169.30); Barabash in the 100 freestyle (56.12) and Molly Urkiel in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.54).
While Kemna arrived at Rosemount in the middle of the streak, he was familiar with the program even before he joined the Irish.
"Well this is only my fourth year, so I've only been around for four of them, but coming in it was a strong program," he said. "I coached at East Ridge prior to this, so I had faced this team before at the section meet on the other side of the pool from it. It's a strong program with a strong tradition, so when we came in four years ago, Emily and I, we knew what we had to do to keep this program going. We've graduated a lot of talent along the way, but again a lot of talent has come up because of that. A lot of girls filling in, a lot of girls stepping up, and I think it's because of the strong tradition that a lot of girls really step into those roles."
One area Kemna said the team has improved since he became head coach is in their overall depth.
"It's come a long way in that, we're reliant on these young girls, but in the past it's been a lot of top-end swimmers, so we've gotten to the point that we have more depth and some younger girls are swimming lights out to earn these spots that usually haven't been there," he explained.
The next challenge for the Irish will be at the section meet in where Kenma said they will face stiff competition from East Ridge and Eagan.