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Swimming: Stingrays hope to make big splash in first home sectional meet

WORTHINGTON -- The sectional swim meet is always huge for the Worthington Stingrays. This year, it's bigger yet.For the first time ever on Saturday, the Stingrays will host the section meet in Worthington. Also for the first time ever, the meet w...

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Worthington Stingrays swimmers (from left) Bryan Doeden, Ashley Muller, Meredith Moore, Rachel Koller, Erin Benz and Cameron Jenson lead the team into sectional competition Saturday at the Worthington Area YMCA. DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE

 

WORTHINGTON - The sectional swim meet is always huge for the Worthington Stingrays. This year, it’s bigger yet.
For the first time ever on Saturday, the Stingrays will host the section meet in Worthington. Also for the first time ever, the meet will be streamed live online. Fans can go to: thecube.com/event.section-swim-meet-591968 to see their favorite swimmers compete in real time.
“I’m really excited having it here,” said Stingrays head coach Donna Damm this week. “Our parents get to be a bigger part of hosting it. It’s a lot more work, and it’s an honor.”
The Stingrays have hosted sectional events in the past, but the events always took place in other cities. This year’s big state-qualifying event at the Worthington Area YMCA will begin at 10 a.m. and continue through most of the afternoon, and Damm expects a good showing by local competitors.
“I think the kids are more comfortable swimming here. Especially the younger swimmers. It gives a big advantage to the younger kids because they’re home,” Damm said.
Her older athletes like the new venue, too.
“I think we’ll have a little bit of a home-field advantage,” said high school senior Bryan Doeden.
“I like the fact that a lot of people who don’t usually watch swim meets - and friends - will probably be watching,” said fellow senior Meredith Moore. “And they’re actually doing a live broadcast of it online, so that’s going to make it a little more nerve-wracking.”
Doeden, Moore and fellow Stingrays seniors Ashley Muller, Erin Benz, Rachel Koller and Cameron Jenson all testify that when they graduate, they’ll miss the competition, the camaraderie and the coaching they’ve enjoyed under Damm’s leadership.
Some of the seniors on the team have been Stingrays since the third or fourth grade. Damm has coached the program for more than 20 years.
There are 52 swimmers in the local program this winter. Forty-five of them will compete in the sectionals, where a total of 114 events will take place.
This year’s senior group has stayed swimming despite the fact that’s not one of the more popular spectator sports. They have their reasons.
Jenson has stuck with it the longest. This is his 10th year.
“I like the feeling of finishing a hard practice and knowing that I’m improving,” he said.
Said Koller: “I like my teammates. It’s a fun environment to be in. Not only are we working hard in practice, but we’re also working hard with people we like being with.”
“I feel like it’s a very goal-oriented sport,” said Doeden. “There’s always something you can do to push yourself forward.”
Added Jenson: “No matter how far along you are, you will always have something technical and personal to work on. You’re never bored.”
Koller is Worthington’s designated 200-breast swimmer, and she likes being the only one. “There’s such a feeling of satisfaction when I’m done with it. I feel really strong and empowered,” she said. “I kind of like it that nobody else does it, and there are things that other people do that I can’t do. And that’s kind of nice, that everybody has a spot where they belong.”
Doeden and Jenson figure to be on the boys 15-and-over 200-freestyle relay, which has won state titles for each of the last four years. Throughout the 2015-16 season, the Stingrays’ relay team’s times have been consistent with the times it has posted in the past, which puts the foursome in a good spot heading into sectionals.
The girls 15-and-over medley relay - which features the backstroke, the breaststroke, the butterfly and freestyle - is also solid.

 

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DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE Stingrays coach Donna Damm instructs her pupils in a pre-sectional practice at the local YMCA.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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