In the eyes of veteran Whitefish Bay girls swimming coach Jim Davis, there were many, many good things that came out of the Blue Dukes' 10th-place showing in the WIAA D2 state swimming meet in Madison on Nov. 10.
But the best one didn't involve any swimming at all.
"We had a second van-load of teammates come up to cheer them all on," Davis said. "That's what it's all about really ... I just can't say enough how impressed I've been with their coming together as a team this year. Every single meet, they just cheered each other on all the way to state."
That included cheering on sophomore Ines Bengana, who earned a sixth-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle, the Blue Dukes' only top-six medal of the meet. Still, the Blue Dukes held onto their tapers and improved in all three of their relays enough to turn in an 88-point total in the 38-team meet. Defending D2 state champion Madison Edgewood dominated the event with 337.
Bengana was just a touch slower than her taper in taking sixth in the 500 with a 5:20.97 time. North Shore rival Grafton's Autumn Haebig was the dominant swimmer in both the D2 and D1 competition and set a new record of 4:47.79 in winning the event. Davis said Bengana did a good job of knowing her place and keeping herself in position to medal. She was the only sophomore in the top six of the race.
As noted, the Blue Dukes' three relay teams did great work at the meet. The 200 medley team of senior Kate Murphy, Gretchen Grams, Sara Desing and senior Heather Smallpage dropped close to a second from its previous best time in winning the slow heat of the event and taking ninth in 1:54.18.
The 200 free relay team of Lydia Barnes, Ceci Hutt, Bengana, and Smallpage missed out on a top-six medal by just 0.13 of a second with a season-best seventh-place effort of 1:40.93.
The 400 free relay team of Barnes, Hutt, Grams and Bengana also dropped time in taking ninth in 3:43.71.
"For what we had all year, the kids did just fine," Davis said.
Other finishes by event included the following: 200 free — Bengana, ninth (1:59.26), Barnes, 13th (2:00.85), and 50 free — Smallpage, 15th (25.15).
Davis said some of the girls were worried about their finishes, but he reassured them they did well.
"Looking at the times (on the seed charts) all year, we knew that we were going to have to do everything in our power just to get here (to state)," he said., "but what they did here tonight just reinforces the outstanding work they did. They raced and they were ready to perform in the big meet. It was a really fun night."
Davis was happy for the two seniors on the state group, Smallpage and Murphy.
"It was a little sad for them, but they still ending their careers with great performances," he said.
The team finished with 51 swimmers for the season, and Davis said with the number of returnees back, the depth next season should be great.
"For us to finish the way we did in the top 10 was just amazing," he said.