Tuesday was a special day for both the Detroit Lakes and Perham-New York Mills swim teams. It was a night of celebration between two groups at one of the rare home meets this season.

The Yellowjackets don’t have a home pool, which means the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center hosts the closest meet to Perham each season.

“This is such a fun meet every year,” Yellowjackets’ head coach Jensen Grimley said. “It’s our home away from home. It’s the only meet we have within an hour. Being in a meet that’s close to home gives our fans a chance to get here. This is the only meet some of our fans can get to. It’s always exciting to swim here, and both teams have a lot of girls that swim together for club swimming. There are a lot of friendships between the two teams.”

The Lakers pulled out a 125-60 win over Perham, but the final score was an afterthought to Detroit Lakes head coach Carol McCarthy. At this point in the season, she’s keeping tabs on how her athletes are preparing for postseason meets instead of wins and losses.

“The win is great, but we like to focus more on how each girl is feeling at this point,” McCarthy said. “We had a talk before the meet saying this is the gritty part of the season. They’re tired, and they have to push through this. Perham had a lot of girls out sick. We just had a bunch of girls come back from being sick. But we saw a lot of good times today.”

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Brielle Dallmann takes fifth in the 200-yard IM on Sept. 28, 2021 in Detroit Lakes' 125-60 win over Perham-New York Mills at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.
Brielle Dallmann takes fifth in the 200-yard IM on Sept. 28, 2021 in Detroit Lakes' 125-60 win over Perham-New York Mills at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.

Lakers cruise behind their leaders

McCarthy was excited to see the leaders of her team perform well as they have done all season. Of the 11 varsity events, the Lakers took first in 10 of them.

“It’s always great to get a chance to swim in this pool,” McCarthy said. “We don’t have a lot of home meets this season. The next time we swim here will be true team, and then it will be sections. It sounds weird to say we need to get used to our home pool, but we practice at the high school. Any opportunity to swim well in this pool, and to build them up psychologically, is very important.”

Detroit Lakes’s Lexi and Madi Gerdes have helped pace the Lakers in several events this season. Both were part of the first-place 200-yard medley relay with Rylie Wendt and Marin Westrum (2:03.51).

Lexi won the 200-yard IM (2:27.74), took second in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:14.26) and swam in the first-place 400-yard freestyle relay with Westrum, Cora Martin and Faith Hamm. Madi also had a big night. She took first in the 100-yard fly (1:10.68) and first in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:12.11.

Madi Gerdes wins the 100-yard breaststroke on Sept. 28, 2021 in Detroit Lakes' 125-60 win over Perham-New York Mills at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.
Madi Gerdes wins the 100-yard breaststroke on Sept. 28, 2021 in Detroit Lakes' 125-60 win over Perham-New York Mills at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.

“They work hard all year round and have been doing great all year,” McCarthy said of Lexi and Madi Gerdes. “They are great leaders. It’s fun to watch them. They have their main events. But they’ll swim anything.”

Hamm’s big night included first-place finishes in four events. Along with the 400-yard freestyle relay, she also won the 200-yard freestyle (2:06.22) and the 100-yard freestyle (56.89). She was also part of the 200-yard freestyle relay team with Martin, Went and Quinn Rogstad. They took first with a time of 1:50.26.

“She’s a spark plug,” McCarthy said of Hamm. “She made a lot of improvements in her kicking this summer. That’s huge, and she’s kind of transitioning towards sprinting. She’s always focused on the details. She’s a very thoughtful swimmer. That thoughtfulness has to go away once we head into the postseason. She does that very well, and she analyzes a lot.”

Another swimmer McCarthy raved about was Rogstad. She took first in the 500-yard freestyle (6:14.19) and second in the 200-yard freestyle (2:18.65).

“She’s worked hard all season,” McCarthy said of Rogstad. “We’re getting her starts better for sprinting, but I think in her heart of hearts, she knows that she’s a distance swimmer. She had a good meet tonight. She’s been pacing herself throughout the season, but tonight was a very good meet for her.”

Martin, a senior, finished her night with a pair of second-place finishes to go with her relay times. She finished behind Westrum (27.43) in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 28.11 and behind Hamm in the 100-yard free (1:01.17).

Irene Mursu takes second in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:11.07 on Sept. 28, 2021 in Perham's 125-60 loss to Detroit Lakes at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
Irene Mursu takes second in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:11.07 on Sept. 28, 2021 in Perham's 125-60 loss to Detroit Lakes at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

“Cora Martin has really stepped up as a senior,” McCarthy said. “It’s always fun to see the seniors getting their best times. She’s killing it. She comes to our weight lifting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning and is a beast. All of that pays off out here. She’s another one that you can put in anything, and she does it with a smile. But she’s one of the hardest-working kids on the team.”

McCarthy was happy to see her seniors have such an impressive showing in their final regular-season home meet.

“Our seniors have competed here since they were in sixth grade, so today was a little emotional,” McCarthy said. “It’s just a great opportunity to swim against a section team in the home pool.”

Lexi Gerdes swims to a first-place finish in the 200-yard IM with a time of 2:27.74 in Detroit Lakes 125-60 win over Perham-New York Mills on Sept. 28, 2021 at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
Lexi Gerdes swims to a first-place finish in the 200-yard IM with a time of 2:27.74 in Detroit Lakes 125-60 win over Perham-New York Mills on Sept. 28, 2021 at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Jackets are proud of the season they’re having

In her six years as head coach of the Perham-New York Mills girls swimming and diving team, Grimley has never seen a season like the one her team is having.

“This was a fantastic meet on top of a fantastic season,” Grimley said. “We’re seeing girls drop time left and right. We’re seeing older and younger girls drop a ton of time. Girls are stepping up and showing us they deserve to be here.”

The Yellowjackets are led by Irene Mursu. She competed in four events–taking second in the 200-yard IM (2:31.63), 100-yard backstroke (1:11.07), and swam in Perham’s second-place 200-yard freestyle relay and 200-yard medley relay teams.

“Irene is a senior and my captain, and ‘beast’ is a good word to use to describe her,” Grimley said. “She has been since she was a seventh-grader. She has been one of the kids to beat since the get-go.”

The only event Perham won was the one-meter diving competition. Avery McAllister shattered her personal record by 23 points for a first-place score of 210.4.

Lucie Meyer takes second in the 500-ayrd freestyle (6:52.21) in Perham-New York Mills' 125-60 loss to Detroit Lakes on Sept. 28, 2021 at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
Lucie Meyer takes second in the 500-ayrd freestyle (6:52.21) in Perham-New York Mills' 125-60 loss to Detroit Lakes on Sept. 28, 2021 at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

“Avery had a fantastic meet,” Grimley said. “She beat her personal record by 23 points and broke200 points for the first time ever. She landed some wicked dives that she just added in the last couple of weeks. She had a big night, and we’re super proud of her.”

Grimley needed her younger girls to step up this season in order to be successful. One of those girls is eighth-grader Taylor Ziemke. She swam in Perham’s second-place 200-yard medley relay with Mursu, Elle McDonald and Lucy Schulz (2:06.71). Ziemke took third in the 200-yard IM (2:33.71) and 100-yard breaststroke 1:18.69.

“I expected Taylor Ziemke to have a fantastic season,” Grimley said. “She’s an eighth-grader coming off of a fantastic seventh-grade season. She was my only seventh grader to qualify for sections last year. This year, she is seeded to do pretty well at sections, and she’s dropping middle school records left and right. She got close to another one tonight, and in Park Rapids, so we’re hoping to put her name up a couple more times.”

Every year, Perham swimmers attempt to complete the “Iron Woman.” The goal is to swim all eight individual events in a season. Not only did a handful of girls complete the challenge already, but three of them qualified for sections in every event.

“We have the most section qualifications I’ve ever had in six years,” Grimley said. “Irene, Taylor and Lucy qualified for sections in all eight events. Irene has done it every year except her seventh-grade year, but this is the first time I’ve ever had three girls do it in a season.”

Elle McDonald swims to a second-place finish (1:17.96) in the 100-yard butterfly in Perham-New York Mills' 125-60 loss to Detroit Lakes on Sept. 28, 2021 at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
Elle McDonald swims to a second-place finish (1:17.96) in the 100-yard butterfly in Perham-New York Mills' 125-60 loss to Detroit Lakes on Sept. 28, 2021 at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Grimley knew this team had a chance to be one of the best she’s ever had, but her expectations were surpassed weeks ago.

“We’re a small team,” Grimley said. “I only have 16 swimmers and three divers. I can’t even fill a varsity roster. They’re really young and green. But my heavy hitters came back this year with a vengeance. My younger girls are really stepping up and working really hard in practice. I love my girls, and I expect a lot from them, but I never could’ve expected what we’re seeing out of them.”

DETROIT LAKES 125, PERHAM-NEW YORK MILLS 60

TOP THREE FINISHES- 200Y MEDLEY RELAY- 1st- Detroit Lakes- Rylie Wendt, Madi Gerdes, Lexi Gerdes, Marin Westrum 2:03.51; 2nd- Perham- Elle McDonald, Irene Mursu, Lucy Schultz, Taylor Ziemke 2:06.71; 3rd- Perham-New York Mills Jasmyn Olson, Megan Galbrecht, Maggie Vickmark , Jaelyn Rodewald 2:34.82; 200Y FREE- 1st- Detroit Lakes- Faith Hamm 2:06.22; 2nd- Detroit Lakes- Quinn Rogstad 2:18.65; 3rd- Detroit Lakes- Emily Peterson 2:24.92; 200Y IM- 1st- Detroit Lakes- L. Gerdes 2:27.74; 2nd- Perham- I. Mursu 2:31.63; 3rd- Perham-- Ziemke 2:33.71; 50Y FREE- 1st- Detroit Lakes- Marin Westrum 27.43; 2nd- Cora Martin 28.11; 3rd- Perham- Schultz 28.46; DIVING- 1st- Perham- Avery McAllister 210.4; 2nd- Detroit Lakes- Hope Hamm 197; 3rd- Detroit Lakes- Kylie Tulius 156.1; 100Y FLY- 1st- Detroit Lakes- M. Gerdes 1:10.68; 2nd- Detroit Lakes 1:17.96; 3rd- Perham- McDonald 1:21.34; 100Y FREE- 1st- Detroit Lakes- F. Hamm 56.89; 2nd- Detroit Lakes- Martin 1:01.17; 3rd- Detroit Lakes- Rylie Wednt 1:01.48; 500 FREE- 1st- Detroit Lakes- Rogstad 6:14.19; 2nd- Perham- Lucie Meyer 6:52.21; 3rd- Detroit Lakes- Emmery Wheeling 7:14.65; 200Y FREE RELAY- 1st- Detroit Lakes Martin, Wendt, Rogstad, F. Hamm 1:50.26; 2nd- Perham- I. Mursu, Schultz, McDonald, Ziemke 1:51.61; 3rd- Detroit Lakes- Lexi Blake, Emily Peterson, Marian Martin, Hannah Barberg 1:58.70; 100 BACK- 1st- Detroit Lakes 1:09.87; 2nd- Perham- I. Mursu 1:11.07; 3rd- Detroit Lakes- Wendt 1:12.08; 100Y BREAST- 1st- Detroit Lakes- M. Gerdes 1:12.11; 2nd- Detroit Lakes- L. Gerdes 1:14.26; 3rd- Perham- Ziemke 1:18.69; 400Y FREE RELAY- 1st- Detroit Lakes- L. Gerdes, Westrum, Martin, F. Hamm 4:10.35; 2nd- Perham- Kaydi Mursu, L. Meyer, Vickmark, M. Meyer 4:40.38; 3rd- Detroit Lakes- Peterson, Lexi Blake, Rebecca Cannon, M. Gerdes 4:42.09