2020-2021 Norfolk High swim and dive team

The unusual 2020-21 swimming season winds down this week with the 2021 Nebraska state swimming and diving meet starting Thursday.

The Norfolk High Panthers swimming and diving team travels to the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln with its eye on making school history.

"We're pretty optimistic about where we think we can be at the end of the season," Norfolk coach David Nelson said. "The girls have a strong talent to make some noise, but it's about controlling what we can control."

It had been 28 years since the Norfolk High girls finished sixth place or higher at the swimming and diving championships until last year when the girls took home sixth-place finish.

The girls lost only four swimmers to graduation from last year's squad, but this year they have high hopes of breaking into the top five.

"It's going to be really tight, and there are a lot of teams that will be chipping away to get into the top five," Nelson said. "Our girls are optimistic that they can place and be one of the best teams that can come out of our school, on the girls swimming end. We can't get worked up on what other teams do; we have to focus on swimming our best."

Norfolk had the bulk of its points from the previous state meet come from relay teams. Nelson said the relay teams could play a huge factor in the outcome on Saturday.

"We want to maximize the amount of points. We've mixed up the girls with trying to put together the best relay lineups," Nelson said. "Our relays are pretty strong — being in the top eight will be important when it comes to points. I think we have the right people in place to have successful relays."

The Panthers this year have been led by a few swimmers, including senior Annika Harthoorn, who will be competing in the 200 medley relay, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 400 freestyle relay, and she is looking to defend her state championship in the 100-meter butterfly.

Other swimmers including Joslyn Jacobs (200 medley relay, 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke, 400 freestyle relay), Maggie Waddington (200 medley relay, 50 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay) and Elsie Olberding (200 medley relay, 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke, 400 freestyle relay) will make their return to the state meet while Marzia Gasparini (200 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay) and Sierra Rader (200 freestyle relay) will make their debuts.

Across the board, the Panthers will feature efficient relay teams, along with individuals who all have opportunities to bring home medals.

"We have the depth and the talent," Nelson said.

On the boys side, Norfolk doesn't have nearly as much depth, but the Panthers are aiming for a top 10 finish.

Lone Norfolk boys senior Mason Olmer will be competing in four events, including the 100 breaststroke, in which he finished as runner-up a year ago.

"Mason is a very talented swimmer, and he's been a part of the Norfolk culture over the last four years. He's done lot of good things, and he is leaving a legacy on Norfolk swimming in a positive way," Nelson said. "It's going to be a really fast 100 breaststroke field, and he's at the front end of it."

Ben Spray also will be competing in his final state meet while his freshman brother, Tim, will be competing in his first state meet.

Norfolk's Nate Filipi will swim in four events while Trey Foecking, Owen Ash, Brady Faltys and Peyton Flohr make up the 200 freestyle relay team.

The Panthers will have one diver, Kiran Walker, starting off the meet on Thursday, and then the rest of the swimmers will get to compete on Friday in the prelims. The girls will go in the morning, and the boys will follow shortly after.

"It's been a roller coaster this year for everybody. We're really thankful that the NSAA, our school and our community were able to allow our kids to compete and have a state meet," Nelson said. "Our kids haven't had a normal season, but at least we had a season. We're very thankful for all of the things that are put in place to finish this swim season."

State swimmers and events:

NORFOLK GIRLS

Seniors: Annika Harthoorn (200 medley relay, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke, 400 freestyle relay), Taylor Rossman (200 freestyle relay), Kiran Walker (Diving).

Juniors: Joslyn Jacobs (200 medley relay, 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke, 200 freestyle relay), Maggie Waddington (200 medley relay, 50 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Marzia Gasparini (200 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay).

Sophomores: Elsie Olberding (200 medley relay, 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke, 400 freestyle relay).

Freshmen: Sierra Rader (200 freestyle relay).

NORFOLK BOYS

Senior: Mason Olmer (200 medley relay, 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke, 400 freestyle relay).

Juniors: Ben Spray (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 400 freestyle relay), Nathan Filipi (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, 500 freestyle, 400 freestyle relay), Trey Foecking (200 freestyle relay).

Sophomores: Owen Ash (200 freestyle relay), Brady Faltys (200 freestyle relay), Peyton Flohr (200 freestyle relay).

Freshmen: Tim Spray (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 400 freestyle relay).

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