— A trip to the Cheesecake Factory is on the horizon for Aubrey Schueler and it is well-earned.
The senior for the
Willmar girls swimming and diving team
is heading to the Class A state tournament for a second consecutive year. The Class A diving preliminaries are noon Thursday, the Class A swimming preliminaries are noon Friday and the Class A swimming and diving championships are noon Saturday. All the events take place at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis.
who tied for 11th place in the 50-yard freestyle in 2022
, will have another shot at a medal in that race this weekend. But unlike last season where she qualified for one event, she competes in two more events at the state meet this season — the 100 butterfly and the 200 freestyle relay. Her Cardinals' teammates in senior Cate Brogren, junior Kaylee Hurley and sophomore Noelle Becker make up the 200 freestyle relay team.
There are six more area athletes competing at the Class A state tournament. Four are from Minnewaska/Morris and there is one each from Litchfield and Montevideo.
Minnewaska/Morris' Lyla Stadtherr competes in the 100 breaststroke. Her seed time of 1 minute, 10.67 seconds ranks 22nd in the field. She also is part of the Gators' 400 freestyle relay team at state, which ranks No. 24 (3:51.10). Joining her in the relay will be Soffia Stadtherr, Becca Femrite and Melena Longtin.
Litchfield's Adeline Lundin will compete in the 100 backstroke with a seed time of 1:01.71, good for a No. 27 ranking.
Montevideo's Elizabeth O'Malley is set to dive in the 1-meter diving competition, which will feature 32 divers.
"I am so excited to go down for three events," Schueler said. "It's so exciting to know that I have more teammates with me too — going in a relay — rather than last year being by myself pretty much. It's super exciting knowing that and that we get to hang out down there.
"Having three events means that I feel like I can be a little bit more focused just because I have more to look forward to and I have a little bit bigger goals going into it because I had never swam in an individual race at state before last year. I think now that I know more what to expect. I can kind of prepare myself more and I've already been looking at times from last year and comparing and kind of seeing where I'm hoping to land and setting goals in place."
As far as her three events, Schueler is eyeing top 16 finishes in each of them.
"Last year going into state I just really wanted to make it to finals, which is the top 16. And then this year I still have similar goals," Schueler said. "I would love to make top 16 in all three, if possible. Looking at some of the times from last year, I was seeing that there is a chance that I could maybe pop into top eight medal standing in some of my individuals, which would be crazy. I don't know if it'll happen but I just thought that I'd put it out there and think about it and work hard this next week."
Schueler's seed time of 58.77 seconds in the 100 butterfly ranks No. 9 and her seed time of 24.55 in the 50 freestyle ranks No. 10. These rankings are among swimmers who will compete in the two events at the Class A championships. Willmar's 200 freestyle relay's 1:41.59 ranks No. 15.
On an individual scale, everything seems to be coming together at the right time for Schueler. She had her career-best swims in the 50 freestyle (24.55) and 100 butterfly (58.77)
at the Section 3A championships on Saturday
. That led to a section title in the 50 freestyle and a third-place, state-qualifying finish in the 100 butterfly.
"It's really relieving to know that all the work during the season has paid off and that the taper worked and knowing that those section times showed that, it makes me really excited going into state too and having another week of taper to focus on the races at state," Schueler said. "I'm really hoping to advance farther this year."
Willmar's 200 freestyle relay also had a strong showing at sections. The team had a fourth-place finish, but its time of 1:41.59 was quick enough to qualify under the state's standards.
"It'll be super fun because we get to take a whole van down and we usually end up going to the mall and staying in the hotel and all the fun things that go along with state so it means a lot," Schueler said. "We also get to bring two alternates since it is a relay, which is (senior) Julia Lindquist and (junior) Amelia Tauber that we get to bring with us down to state. So there will be a total of six of us going down, plus the coaches, which makes it all the more fun to have more people along with us."