The Rhinelander High School girls' swim team made a big splash at the 50th WIAA Division 2 girls' state meet on Friday night. The Hodags finished fifth overall in the 38-team field at the UW Natatorium in Madson. Sophomore Malia Francis led the night for RHS and cruised to a pair of individual state titles.
Madison Edgewood would cruise to their fifth straight D2 title in a convincing fashion with 290 points, which was 126.5 points ahead of runner-up McFarland. The Crusaders also became only the second girls' swim and dive team to win five consecutive championships and won five events on the night including three all three relays. After Edgewood and McFarland was Ashwaubenon (141.50 points), Shorewood (125 points), and Rhinelander (118 points).
Francis had a standout night for the Hodags and would win D2 state titles in both the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke. Bu Rhinelander started the night podium finish in the 200-yard medley relay. The team of junior Lisa Kennedy, Francis, junior Makenna Winnicki, and sophomore Noelle St. Pierre finished 5th with a time of 1:49.08, bettering their seed time by 0.57 seconds. Edgewood would win the 200-medley relay with a blistering time of 1:44.51 which was 3.76 seconds better than their seeded time and set new D2 state record.
Francis led from start to finish in the 100-fly with an opening the first 50-yards at 26.35 seconds and clocked in with a winning time of 56.23 seconds. She beat out Ashwaubenon junior Hallory Domnick by 1.38 seconds. Francis finished 1.31 better than her seeded time and only 0.6 seconds off the current D2 record set in 2014 by Autumn Haebig of Grafton.
Than later in the meet Francis added her second D2 title in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 54.72 seconds, which was only 0.07 seconds off the state record. She cruised passed defending state champion Mara Freeman of McFarland by 0.96 seconds. It also marked RHS girls' swimming ninth title in school history. The last time girls' swimming clenched first in a state event was back in 2016 when Kiah Francis won the 200-IM and 100-breaststroke.
Winnicki would reach the podium again for Rhinelander after finishing fourth overall in the 500-yard freestyle. She shaved off 4.16 seconds off her seeded time, clocking at 5:15.55, a lifetime best. Winnicki also placed ninth in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:13.42.
In the 200-yard freestyle relay the Rhinelander group of Winnicki, Francis, Kennedy, and St. Pierre finished eighth overall with a time of 1:41.27. Lakeland finished sixth in the 200-yard freestyle relay, 0.77 seconds ahead of the Hodag's relay. Kennedy also added a 13th place finish in the 100-yard backstroke.
Rhinelander sat at second in the team standings with two events left, but was leaped after not having any entries in the 100-yard breaststroke and 400-freestyle relay.
The Hodags will look to have another successful season next year and will have a big advantage with returning all four state qualifiers. RHS will continue to train hard in the off season and will strive to add another GNC title as well as get back to the D2 WIAA state meet.