Shorewood - For Shorewood girls swim coach Rob McCabe, and his cadre of powerhouse swimmers, the choice was simple entering the WIAA State Division 2 swim meet in Madison on Friday night.
And it went something like this:
"Records are temporary but state championships are forever."
So the Greyhounds eschewed the possibility of blowing the state 200 medley relay record out of the water by putting Kristin Malone on the anchor in favor of a more balanced approach that would earn the Greyhounds more points.
And so the seventh WIAA State D2 championship the Greyhounds have won in their storied program's history was burnished and made shiny by the 100 and 200 freestyle state records that Malone set, and the 100 breast stroke mark that Rachel Munson took and by the 500 freestyle championship that terminal bridesmaid Ellen Stello finally earned for herself.
But it was anchored firmly in the concrete base of the pool itself by the three runner-up finishes Shorewood claimed in the 200 medley, 200 free and 400 free relays. All those entries, each worth double points, allowed the Greyhounds to pull away from defending champion Milton and then enjoy a celebratory hop in the pool with 255 points while Milton had 217.
Swimmers wanted team title
"We made the decision on Monday night (following sectionals)," McCabe said. "One option (putting Malone in the medley) was much riskier than the others. We could have gone maybe 1:45 or better (in the medley) with Kristin on the end but the team's comments were unanimous: We wanted to go for that state championship."
And once that plan was set in motion, there was no stopping these Greyhounds.
"This was so much fun," Malone said. "There were a lot of emotions running through us all week and by Thursday, we really felt the taper start to kick in. We had been talking about this (the state title) since last year (when the Greyhounds took second to Milton).
"We felt we could do something special this year. We just had to figure out strategic ways to win it. The choice we made? It was a good one."
And so was Malone's to move up from the 50 and 100 freestyles to the 100 and 200 freestyles.
"I just wanted to try something new," she said.
And she did so in spectacular fashion. She took down the three-year-old 200 free mark by 0.3 of a second with a clocking of 1:48.83. She was a good four seconds ahead of the field.
She then came back and defended her crown in the 100 free by nicking 0.33 off the five-year-old mark with a 50.28, more than 1.5 seconds ahead of the runner-up.
"I spoke to Rob (McCabe) about some of my goals," she said. "I thought I could go 1:49 or 1:48 in the 200 and he told me that those are some high goals, but he also told me that he knew I was capable of them."
Sophomore sets record
For Munson, the sophomore, who swam at the Olympic Trials this past summer, the breast stroke record was a surprise that really wasn't. She blasted 1.69 off the year-old mark and took more than five seconds off her sectional time with a 1:01.37 clocking.
"I had watched her splits in practice and I thought something like that was possible," McCabe said.
"All this hasn't hit me yet," said Munson. "All week we felt pretty confident, and the funny thing about the race was, was that it felt fine, but it really didn't feel like anything other than normal. It was my goal to win it, but I really surprised myself. I didn't see myself setting a state record."
The meet was particularly special for Stello. She and other seniors like Genevieve Hayes, Diana Yakshimamedova and Anna Gruber have had to act like upperclassmen and leaders ever since sophomore year because of a lack of juniors and seniors in the program.
"When they were sophomores, there were no juniors and seniors on the team," McCabe said, "and when they were juniors, there were no seniors. They have essentially been seniors for four years and now this is their reward."
Stello didn't think it was any big deal.
"It was just a different experience," she said. "Just because it was unique didn't make it hard. We just adapted to our roles earlier than we thought we were going to. For all four of us, I thought it was a good thing.
"Be a leader."
And for once in her stellar career, Stello got a chance to be a leader in a major individual race. She led the 500 from wire-to-wire in claiming a four-second win in 4:58.34. She said she had to adapt a different strategy after taking second in the 500 the last two years and also second in the 200 individual medley earlier this evening.
"I was getting frustrated I admit," she said. "I was not going to let it happen again … so I tried going out a little faster this time. I knew I couldn't back-half (try to go quicker in the second half of the race) it this time around.
"All I remember at the end is smiling, really smiling a lot."
Because she and the others knew that the team title was in sight, and that was due to the fact that behind all those firsts was a lot of firepower. Stello took one second with a best time of 2:05.39 in the 200 IM and then there were the relays.
The medley relay was just 0.12 away from victory in second as the crew of Melissa Clausen, Munson, Stello and freshman Eva Jorn was clocked in 1:48.59.
The other relays followed that lead in short order, as the 200 crew of Munson, Jorn, Hayes and Malone claimed their runner-up slot in 1:38.68 and the 400 free crew of Stello, Clausen, Hayes and Malone did the same (3:32.18) as Malone closed the final relay with a blazing 50.0 100 free split.
A funny note about the 400 free relay was that because of Munson's win in the breast stroke, the Greyhounds relay could have fallen in the pool and been disqualified and the team would have still snagged the meet crown.
"But I told them that they didn't have to do that," laughed McCabe.
The veteran coach, who won a state title with the team in his first year of 2001 and again in 2003, loved the demeanor of this squad.
"I knew we had a talented team coming back," he said, "and they were fun kids to work with. It's like the old saying goes 'The brighter the lights, the better they performed.' The girls proved they were ready for this. There were no mental or physical shortcomings here. They were mentally stable and fit."
And ready to be champions.
"We didn't do too much talking about it (the championship) during the week," Stello said. "We were just focusing on going in there and doing what we could. We focused on one race at a time and if we did what we're supposed to, it would happen."
And it did.
Four individual crowns won, three records set
TEAM SCORES (top 10): Shorewood 255, Milton 217, Grafton 193, Fort Atkinson 133.5, New Berlin Eisenhower 130, DeForest 127, Whitefish Bay 126, Ashwaubenon 122, Sturgeon Bay/Sevastopol 116 and McFarland 110
OTHER PLACES FOR SHOREWOOD: 200 free: Hayes, sixth (1:56.16); 200 individual medley: Munson, third (2:06.26); 100 free: Clausen, 15th (55.88); 500 free: Hayes, third (5:07.55); and 100 backstroke: Clausen, ninth (1:00.6)
OTHER STATE TITLES: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003
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