SPASH girls swimming sends Raczek, relay team to state
Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) junior Alex
Raczek and the Panthers’ 400 freestyle relay team will make their first
appearance at the WIAA Division 1 Girls Swimming State Meet at the University
of Wisconsin Natatorium in Madison Saturday, Nov. 14.
Raczek won the 50 freestyle at the WIAA Division 1 Hudson
Sectional Saturday, Nov. 7, where she also teamed with senior Kathryn Stupar,
sophomore Julia Stupar and freshman Abbey Rosenthal to qualify in the 400
“It’s really amazing,” said Raczek. “I was really nervous at
Sectionals, and when I finished I was excited to see that I got first and I got
the chance (to go).
“It’s going to be a great experience,” she said.
“Going to state this year means everything to me,” said
Kathryn Stupar. “I’ve been swimming for almost my whole life, and this has been
one of my biggest goals, ever since I’ve started swimming.
“And getting to go with these three is like a dream, because
they’re some of my best friends,” she said. “It’s just going to be so much
This season, SPASH went 5-0 in Wisconsin Valley Conference
(WVC) dual meets, and then finished second behind D.C. Everest at the WVC Meet
Oct. 29 to earn a share of the Conference Title with Everest, which was the
Panthers’ first Conference Title since 2000 and snapped Wausau East’s string of
12 consecutive WVC Titles.
“It was a really big goal,” said second-year SPASH girls
swimming head coach Daylyn Hopp. “Of course we would’ve
loved to win the Conference Meet, but D.C. Everest deserved every ounce of
that; they were amazing.
“But to have a share of that Conference Title, it’s
something that we set up as a goal last season,” she said. “We wanted that and
did the work to get there.”
That led into the Sectional at Hudson last Saturday, where Raczek, the 2015
WVC Swimmer of the Year, got off to a slow start in the 50 freestyle.
“I was the last one off the block, so I was behind a little
bit,” said Raczek. “And then on my turn, my foot slipped on the wall.
“I was like, ‘I just have to do this,’” she said. “And I
just raced my heart out.”
Raczek came back to win the 50 freestyle in 25.03 seconds,
as she edged senior Kelsey Linzmeyer of Holmen/La Crosse Aquinas/Onalaska
(25.08 seconds) at the finish to earn her first trip to state.
“I was really shocked,” said Raczek. “It didn’t process at
first, and then I saw my team and they were all cheering for me, and it was
“I couldn’t do it without them,” she said.
“Alex made a big transition this year; she switched from
distance events to sprint events, and she embraced it and went with it,” said
Hopp. “She broke her hand a couple of weeks ago, and it was pretty terrifying
when that happened.
“But she’s just a good kid, she works super hard, and so
goes hard all the time,” she said. “She’s a true competitor, and I’m proud of
In the final event of the day, the Panthers also looked to
qualify for state in the 400 freestyle.
“Before the race, I said that ‘I never believed so much in
anything before in my life,’” said Julia Stupar. “And I really didn’t.
“I just knew we could do it,” she said.
“Our goal was to win it obviously, and we went in
believing,” said Rosenthal. “Julia led us, and we just kept it up and kept on
The Panthers got out to a quick lead and the team of Julia
Stupar, Kathryn Stupar, Rosenthal and Raczek won in 3:40.23 to beat Hudson’s team (3:44.23) and
advance to state.
“My sister took it out really fast, and we were in the lead
from the start,” said Kathryn Stupar. “And I honestly knew the whole time that
we were going to win.”
“I was very excited,” said Julia Stupar of watching the end
of the race. “We were all holding hands, and we just jumped up and we were
“We were so happy,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Panthers totaled 266 points to finish second
at the Sectional behind Hudson
(376) and ahead of third-place D.C. Everest (252.5).
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” said Julia Stupar. “I
thought we were going to get fourth or fifth, like what we usually get.
“And one of our goals at Sectionals was to beat Everest, so
it was cool,” she said.
Heading into the State Meet Saturday, Raczek is seeded 24th
in the 50 freestyle, and is looking forward to get a chance to compete with
some of the top swimmers in the state.
“I just want to swim and have that experience,” said Raczek.
“And to watch all the girls who are winning, and hopefully become inspired.”
“In the 50, anything can happen,” said Hopp. “She could be
seeded 24th and get 10th, or she could be seeded 24th and get 24th. We don’t
“We’re just going to enjoy the experience and to expose some
of our younger swimmers to that environment,” she said. “So that if we are
there in the future, they understand what it’s all about and what it feels
The 400 freestyle relay team is seeded 18th at state and
will look to establish a new SPASH record, as its mark of 3:40.23 at the
Sectional was just behind the school record of 3:39.45 that was set in 2010 by
Abby Graf, Lindsey Pavelski, Janna Check and Natalie Neuwirth.
“Our biggest goal is to have fun, but another big goal is
just to break that record,” said Rosenthal. “It would be a huge honor to break
“That 400 free relay has been really fast all season,
they’ve been swimming really, really well together,” said Hopp. “They broke our
pool record when we swam against Wausau East, they just sort of continued to
chip away at it, and then they absolutely blew it away.
“And they’re getting really close to our team record right
now, and there’s two (NCAA) Division 1 swimmers on that team (Neuwirth and
Check at UWGB),” she said. “So it’s pretty exciting that they’re there.”
Meanwhile, Kathryn Stupar will finish her high school
swimming career with her first appearance at state, where she will swim on the
same relay team as her younger sister.
“It means everything to me, because she’s my best friend,”
said Kathryn Stupar. “And I couldn’t have made it this far in swimming without
her, because she pushes me to be my best every day.”
“It’s probably the most special thing to me, because she’s a
senior, and I’m just so excited that she has the chance to swim at the State
Meet,” said Julia Stupar. “Especially with me.”
Hopp said the girls have worked for the opportunity to go to
state and they deserve it, and that the whole team has been a dream group of
young women this season.
“There are 36 of them, and I would keep them forever,” said
Hopp. “It’s just been a remarkable group of girls to work with.
“They make coming to practice every day positive and fun,”
she said. “We have our ups and downs, as any group will, but they are just an
awesome group of kids, and they put their heart and souls into this season.
“And when you tell a kid that if they work hard for
something, they can achieve it,” she said. “It’s always good when they actually
do work hard for something, and they do achieve it.”