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It runs in the family for Woodbury swim team

Gabby Vitela swims the anchor leg of the Woodbury 400-yard freestyle relay during a Thursday, Sept. 28, meet against Park. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia

You can't pick your family but you can pick your friends, as the old saying goes.

On the Woodbury girls' swimming and diving team, more than a dozen of the team's athletes have decided to spend time with members of their families in the pool. Between 14 swimmers and divers, plus a pair of coaches, the Royals can't remember a time when they have had this many family members on one team in recent history.

Diver Anna Lomnicki is on the team with her older sister senior Betsy Lomnicki and younger sister Veronica Lomnicki, a seventh-grader. After swimming the two different events on the team the past few years, the two sisters tried to influence youngest sibling Veronica in her decision between swimming and diving.

In the end, she decided to become a diver.

"The first day, I wanted her to join swimming," said Anna, who is in her fifth year of diving. "In the end, she chose diving. Without her, we wouldn't be the team we are today."

Each swimmer has their own story about how they got started in swimming. For the Lomnicki sisters, it was some urging by their mother to join a sport that got both Betsy and Anna to join the team at the same time.

"I was like, I don't have a sport," Betsy recalled. "Anna was like, 'I don't want to swim but it sounds cool.'"

Other groups of sisters include Allison and Kayley Pokrandt, Elise and Isabelle Johnson, Gabby and Sophia Vitela, and Callista and Sophia Peterson. A trio of cousins, Anna, Kaylyn and Emily Quach, are also on the team.

The family connection extends to the coaching staff as well, with diving coach Sherry Gross coaching with her daughter, Lizzy Gross-Perkins.

While sisters can sometimes be competitive, many of them swim different events, so they sometimes do not have the opportunity to compare results. But many of the sisters admit there is still a little bit of teasing among them during practices.

"We're competitive, but we both swim different strokes so we give each other a little bit of space," said Isabelle Johnson about her and sister, Elise.

Family members on the Woodbury team will get plenty of time to spend with each other as the season progresses. High school swim season practices start in the middle of August and conclude with the state tournament Nov. 16-18.

Head coach Liz Rodgers said she has enjoyed having the family atmosphere on the team this season.

"I think it's positive, it's fun that they get to be here and be together and build those strong relationships," Rodgers said. "Share in the joy of sport."

Meet victory against Park

Woodbury won its second dual meet of the season 109-77 against Park on Thursday, Sept. 28, at Woodbury High School.

Gabby Vitela led the Royals as she finished first in two events. She won the 50-yard freestyle in 27.23 seconds, and also took first in the 100 backstroke in 1:06.20.

Other first-place finishes came from Sarah Parker in the 200 freestyle (2:12.69), Anika Klund in the 100 freestyle (1:01.42) and Quincie Klein in the 100 breaststroke (1:21.85).

The 200 freestyle team of Natalie Gessner, Parker, Sophia Vitela and Gabby Vitela also took first (1:50.53), as did the 400 freestyle relay team of Mara Mueller, Parker, Sophia Vitela and Gabby Vitela (4:06.20).

Woodbury is 2-1 in Suburban East Conference duals this season with wins against Roseville and Park and a loss to Stillwater.