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Woodbury girls swimming & diving: Royals send five to state in six events, takes second in Section 3AA

Woodbury head coach Michelle Lieder displays the second-place trophy that the team received Friday at the Section 3AA meet at Richfield Middle School. The Royals finished second to Rosemount. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson)1 / 3
Woodbury junior Ana Sortland swims in the 100-yard breaststroke Friday at the Section 3AA meet at Richfield Middle School. Sortland won the race and a spot at the state meet with a time of 1 minute, 5.04 seconds. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)2 / 3
Woodbury freshman Taylor Brooks hugs Royals head coach Michelle Liedner Friday at the Section 3AA meet at Richfield Middle School on the podium after winning the 100-yard backstroke. Brooks set a pool record in the event with a time of 58.44 seconds and qualified for state. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)3 / 3

Woodbury’s Taylor Brooks just needed to believe in herself.

When she started to do so, the results became impressive.

Brooks, a freshman, secured a trip to the state meet in the maximum four events Friday at the Section 3AA meet at Richfield Middle School and shattered two records in the process.

In one of many highlights for the Royals on the night, Brooks edged out senior teammate Sydney Swanson in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 58.44 seconds, which bested the previous pool record of 59.56 seconds. Swanson also beat the pool record with a time of 58.68 seconds as the pair finished 1-2 to secure spots at the state meet.

“I just started to believe in myself,” Brooks said. “Then when I got the time it showed me that I’m able to do it. My coaches believed in me, but I never believed in myself, so when I did get the time it was so emotional and I was so shocked that I had that in me.”

Brooks beat her personal best time in the 100 backstroke by three seconds and the accomplishment left her teary-eyed on the podium.

“That’s also the Junior Olympic cut (time) and that was my goal and I didn’t know I was going to get it today,” Brooks said. “My mom was crying and it made me feel really proud because my mom never really cries when I swim. So when she cried it made me really emotional.”

Brooks also swam the lead leg of the 200-yard medley relay for the Royals - which opened the meet by breaking the pool record, a school record and the section record with a winning time of 1:48.33. Woodbury already held the section record time of 1:49.88, which was set in 2007 by some of the current relay team member’s older sisters.

Brooks, along with junior Ana Sortland, eighth-grader Lucia Rizzo and senior Kristina Swanson won the event by more than a second over Rosemount. Sortland and Swanson’s sisters – Britta and Jessica, respectively - swam on the 2007 relay team that set the previous section record.

In all, Woodbury will be sending five swimmers to the state meet – which will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 18-20, at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center – in six events.

“I think the environment here on Friday is just a bigger deal,” Royals head coach Michelle Liedner said. “The crowd gets into it, the girls get into it and they know this is where they have to perform to move on to the next level.”

Brooks also took second in the 50 free with a time of 24.78 to punch a ticket to state and helped the Royals’ 200 freestyle relay team – along with Rizzo, Sortland and Kristina Swanson – make the state cut time by finishing in 1:39.78.

Sortland also reached the state meet in the maximum four events. In addition to medley relay and the 200 free relay, Sortland went on to out-touch Rosemount’s Olivia Johnston in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:05.04 to win by 0.15 seconds.

“That was really good that she pushed me because I don’t know if I would have gotten the time I did without that,” Sortland said.

Johnston had edged Sortland earlier in the meet in the 200-yard individual medley by nearly two seconds. Sortland, who will be making her third trip to the state meet, also qualified for state in the event.

Also earning honors for Woodbury was Lieder, who was named the Section 3AA Head Coach of the Year and Woodbury’s Rick Light, who earned the Section 3AA Diving Coach of the Year.

-Nick Gerhardt