Giants win Section championship

Virginia’s Lauryn Devich competes in the 100 yard butterfly during Saturday’s Section 7A championship meet in Hibbing.

The Mesabi East girls’ swimming and diving team capped off their season with a dominant performance Saturday at the Section 7A championships.

COVID-19 restrictions meant the meet was held in three separate locations at once — Aurora, Hibbing and Duluth. With teams spread out across each host site, the results for each event were compiled as they came in to come up with the final results.

In the end, the Giants won six of the meets 12 events and finished with 426.5 points, over 100 points in front of runner-up Hibbing (321.5), giving them their third Section 7A title in a row.

The Virginia Blue Devils also picked up a pair of wins thanks to the swimming of senior Lauryn Devich. Eveleth-Gilbert also earned one win with Elli Jankila taking home the 50 freestyle title.

Mesabi East started the meet with a W, coming first in the 200 medley relay. The quartet of Emma Williams, Kylie Meyer, Lydia Skelton and Adrianna Sheets finished with a time of 1:54.21, beating out Duluth Denfeld in second (1:56.04).

Eveleth-Gilbert (Jankila, Amara Carey, Tayler Harju, Anna Heinonen) was third at 2:00.71 and Virginia (Morgan Harvey, Devich, Hailey Pechonick, Elise Hoard) were fourth (2:00.97).

Williams picked up a win for the Giants next in the 200 individual medley, stopping the clock at 2:20.29. Teammate Lydia Skelton was not far behind in second with her time of 2:21.83.

E-G’s Jankila was the next to earn a win, picking up a strong win in the 50 freestyle. Jankila’s time of 25.44 was nearly a second faster than event runner-up Elizabeth Nicolai from Proctor-Hermantown (26.28). Chisholm’s Tresa Baumgard finished in fourth with a time of 26.62, their best result on the day.

Sheets and Adrianna Lehmkuhl were the top two area finishers in the 200 freestyle, taking home fourth and fifth respectively with a time of 2:05.88 and 2:08.72. Northeast Range/Ely’s Morgan McClelland gave the Nighthawks their best finish on the day in this event, taking seventh with a time of 2:11.01.

In the diving portion of the competition, Mesabi East standout Kailey Fossell was running in front of the back through the preliminaries and the semifinals before finishing just as strong in the finals. In the end, she captured gold with a combined score of 379.35, nearly 70 points in front of her nearest competitor.

Virginia sisters Helen and Grace Phenning also found success diving with Helen taking fourth (270.95 points) and Grace finishing in seventh (237.80). Two Giants were sandwiched in between them with Alexa Fossell finishing fifth (267.90) and Aaliyah Sahr taking sixth (260.80).

Virginia’s Devich got her first win of the day in the next event, the 100 butterfly. Devich found tough competition from Denfeld’s Lindsay Johnson (1:02.45), but she came out on top in the end with a time of 1:01.67.

Skelton was the next Giant to earn a win, taking home first in the 100 freestyle with her time of 55.83. She beat out E-G’s Jankila, who finished second with a time of 56.28. The Giants scored more points in the event with Sheets finishing in third with a time of 57.07.

Williams earned her second individual win of the day in the 100 backstroke, taking home first with a time of 1:00.80, over three seconds in front of her own teammate Siiri Hakala. Hakala finished second with her mark of 1:03.94.

The next event, the 100 breaststroke, was another success for Virginia’s standout Devich. Devich finished at the top of the podium with a time of 1:08.66, more than three seconds in front of the Giants Meyer at 1:11.79. Eveleth-Gilbert’s Carey finished third in the event, touching the wall at 1:13.54 and her teammate Anna Heinonen was sixth at 1:18.55.

Mesabi East wrapped up the meet with another relay win as Skelton, Adrianna Lehmkuhl, Williams and Sheets teamed up one final time to win the 400 freestyle relay. Stopping the clock at 3:45.85, the quartet beat out the team from Hibbing by over three seconds (3:49.08) to earn the victory.

The six first place finishes along with many strong finishes down the line gave Mesabi East their third straight section title in a row. Eveleth-Gilbert finished in fourth with 210 points, while Virginia was eighth with 151 points. Northeast Range/Ely took home tenth (93) and Chisholm was 11th (79).

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