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East Ridge girls swimming & diving: Raptors turn gaze toward section meet, have high hopes

East Ridge varsity girls swimmers will look to write another chapter of their best season ever at sectionals this week. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson)

East Ridge varsity girls swimmers will look to write another chapter of their best season ever at sectionals this week.

“We have been focusing on this meet since day one of the season,” Raptors swimming coach Billy Cuevas said. “Everyone is going to be swimming faster than they have all season. “My goal is to have 30 of the 32 individual preliminary swims to qualify for the section finals.” 

Success has been the hallmark of the Raptors this year as they took third in the Suburban East Conference, their best finish ever. They also took second at True Team Sections, just 21 points out of first place. For the first time, the Raptors also beat their cross town rival Woodbury in a duel meet, 104-81. 

With the Section 3AA Meet almost here, the Raptors plan keep doing what they’ve been doing all season. The swimming portion will take place at the Richfield Middle School pool on Wednesday and Friday. Divers will compete at the Cottage Grove Middle School pool on Thursday. 

Raptors swimmer Meredith Ubel, one of the best swimmers in Minnesota, will be looked to for big performances in sections. Cuevas anticipates her qualifying in her individual events and helping the freestyle relays qualify. 

Taylor Johnson and Lindsey Lewis both swim as part of those relay teams. Lewis is also tough distance swimmer in the 200 and 500. Johnson has become known for her work ethic.

“She is very versatile and can swim most events in an elite fashion,” Cuevas said of Johnson.

Taylor Blatchford will also be another Raptor to watch at sections. Cuevas believes she could qualify for state in a couple events.

“She has swam much faster than she has in the past and is now one of the top swimmers in our section and conference,” Cuevas said.

Freshman diver Olivia Burleigh will look to make a return trip to state for the Raptors. She made it last year as an eighth grader.

Cuevas also hopes to Maddy Peters, Kayla Maatta and senior captain Brianna Schmitt put up state-qualifying finishes in the section meet. As a team, they will look to give section favorite Rosemount the toughest competition they can.

Cuevas also has high goals for his girls when state arrives. The Raptors are aiming to have 10 entries for the state championship.

“This has been the best team in the program’s young history, and we are not finished yet,” Cuevas said.

—Matthew Davis