RIVER FALLS, Wis.-- River Falls freshman Ellery Ottem entered last weekend’s WIAA Division 2 Girls’ State Swimming and Diving Championships seeded first in the 200 yard freestyle and second in the 100 free.
She more than lived up to those expectations, becoming the first Wildcat ever to win two individual titles in the 50-year history of the state meet.
“I was just hoping to place well,” the freshman said after climbing down from the River Falls’ fire department’s ladder truck during a welcome home celebration Sunday afternoon. “I just wanted to do my best.”
Ottem figured to contend in both races after winning the sectional titles in both the weekend before. But even she was surprised by her margin of victory in the 200 free where she touched the wall in 1 minute, 49.54 seconds, over three full seconds ahead of second place Izzy Enz of Edgewood and the sixth fastest 200 freestyle time ever at state.
“I was really surprised about that,” she said. But I felt really good in the water. A little nervous going in, but I felt good.”
Ottem captured her second state title later in the meet by winning the 100 freestyle in 50.7 seconds, the ninth fastest 100 time in state history.
Ottem has already set new River Falls school and pool records in the 50 freestyle,100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, and 100 butterfly this season. And after winning two state titles in her first year, head coach Rachael Jensen said she’s just getting started.
“Ellery is an exceptional athlete,” Jensen said. “She is the fastest swimmer in the pool, but also the youngest and most humble. We're excited to see where the next few years take her.”
Ottem wasn’t the only Wildcat to reach the awards podium Friday. Junior diver Madison Berg placed third in the diving competition with a score of 401.15 while classmate Isabelle Seyffer was eighth with 362.2. Junior Eva Mikla was right behind in ninth place with 355.0 and junior Madysin Tape was 15th with 322.25.
It was the second straight year all four Wildcat divers competed at the state meet.
“Having four girls from River Falls for the second year in a row qualify for the state meet, taking up one-third of the event, is amazing,” diving coach Kym Anderson said. “Thirteen of the 16 total competitors at state this year were repeat divers at state. And with only two seniors competing, we knew going in that we were going to see some very good competition.”
After just missing the podium with a seventh place finish last year, Berg said her goal this year was to be on it.
“I was just aiming for podium,” she said. “It was nice that my teammates were there with me, because we’re all just there to support each other. So it’s exciting and more fun with everyone there.”
“Madison nailed her last three dives to put her on the podium,” diving coach Kym Anderson said “The state meet is hard. It is a lot of pressure and the scoring is harder than we see all year, and these girls did a great job. I am so proud of all of these girls and the way they represent our school.”
While Ottem and the junior diving foursome of Berg, Mikla, Seyffer and Tape will all return to the Wildcats next season, senior swimmer Sydney Fleming made her first and only appearance at the state meet Friday and made it a good one by posting a 12th place time of 2:15.93 in the 200 individual medley.
“Sydney is a focused, driven athlete and a strong leader,” Jensen said “She finished her senior year with a strong swim at state and we're so proud of her.”
Fleming will graduate in the spring as the school record holder in the 100 backstroke.
The Wildcats finished with a total of 83 points Friday to finish 12th out of the 40 teams represented at the meet. Edgewood won its fifth straight team title with 290 points.