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Girls swimming: East Ridge, Woodbury compete in conference relays to start the season

Junior Ali Smith looks at the water as she prepares for the start of her race. The East Ridge Raptors won the conference relays on Thursday night. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 4
Junior Abby Hanson reaches for the wall as she finishes her backstroke for the Woodbury Royals on Thursday night's conference relays. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 4
Sophomore Natalie Gessner helped Woodbury earn a second, third and fourth at different events during the conference relays on Thursday night. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 3 / 4
Senior Callie Kunz finished in first place with three of her relay teams on Thursday night in the conference relays to start the season. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

The Woodbury High School swimming pool was packed with fans and swimmers from Roseville, Cretin-Derham Hall, East Ridge and Woodbury on Thursday night.

It was the first time the Raptors and the Royals had an opportunity for their girls to jump in the pool and swim competitively this season.

The four teams competed in the conference relays, which focused on events based around relays. It was a great chance for the coaches to see how their teams were looking on turns and timing off the blocks.

"I think it's nice to see the team compete at a meet like this rather than a dual meet," said Woodbury head coach Martin Hoven. "We were able to see some mistakes that can be corrected during practice, so we are prepared for our first dual meet against Mounds View."

Both Hoven and East Ridge head coach Kathy Madden saw some big steps from practices to Thursday night, which resulted in the Raptors earning first place with 158 points and Woodbury finishing third with 132 points. The Royals did earn first place in diving, which put a smile on Hoven's face.

The Raptors went home with a first place title in every event and sometimes finished first and second in certain events allowing them to earn the top spot at the conference relays.

Callie Kunz was a part of three of those teams that earned first place. Her team finished first in the 400-yard medley relay, 800-yard freestyle relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.

"The seniors stepped up and had some good performances tonight," Madden said. "It was great to see the new girls trying different events and coming out of the water with a smile on their face."

The Royals finished many of the events in either third or fourth place and were led by some younger swimmers like sophomore Natalie Gessner and eighth grader Chloe Carlson.

Gessner helped her teams earn a second-place, third-place and fourth-place spots throughout the evening, while Carlson finished in a similar spot with second-, third- and fourth-place rankings.

"I'm seeing a lot of our girls take what they learned in practice and put it into effect tonight," Hoven said. "It's great to see."

East Ridge and Woodbury will split up for each of its regular season as the Royals host Mounds View next week and head to Roseville the following week. The Raptors will head to Forest Lake next week and then have a bye week before taking on Mounds View on the road.

"We know what we need to work on in practice and that's great to know heading into dual-meet season," Madden said. "I can't wait to see what these girls are capable of in the next few weeks."

Brian Mozey

I am the sports writer for the Woodbury Bulletin and South Washington County Bulletin. I'm a graduate from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University and have always had a passion for sports since a young age. Whether it was watching or playing sports, I always knew sports would be in my career. I've been born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis and look forward to continuing to learn more about the Woodbury and Cottage Grove area throughout my time in this position. 

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