Girls swimming: Competition brings out the best in Church
What Ali Church shows in practices isn't what opponents see in a meet. It isn't that the Grand Forks Central slacks off in practices; on the contrary. However. . . . "Ali works really hard in practices. She's dedicated,'' Grand Forks girls swim c...
What Ali Church shows in practices isn't what opponents see in a meet.
It isn't that the Grand Forks Central slacks off in practices; on the contrary. However. . . .
"Ali works really hard in practices. She's dedicated,'' Grand Forks girls swim coach Bryan Walls said. "But her speeds in practice aren't anywhere near what they are in meets. That's probably the opposite of what is typical for girls. But she's a competitor. She's got another gear in meets.''
Church showed her speed Saturday in the UND Invitational high school meet. The junior won the 200 and 500 freestyles. Church swam her season-best time in the 200 (1:58.61) and one of her best times in the 500 (5:18.22).
Church admits that the competition brings out the best in her.
"I work hard in practices, but I'm more of a meet swimmer,'' she said. "I like to race. I like to win.''
She's already proven herself to be one of the best swimmers in North Dakota.
Church is defending state champion in both the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle. That's after finishing runner-up in the state meet in both distance events as a freshman.
While Church is competitive in most events, the distance races are her specialty.
"The longer ones are a challenge,'' Church said. "I like to say I swim the 500 - it makes you sound tougher.
"And we've had a good tradition in the distance events, girls like Hannah Whitehead and Brittany Schmidt. Grand Forks has been known for its good distance swimmers.''
Whitehead, who currently swims at the University of Minnesota, is a former North Dakota state champion and the Central record holder in the 200 (1:50.12) and 500 (4:55.40).
Walls said the success of Whitehead has influenced Church's choice of preferred races.
"Ali's a good sprinter, but she's shown the most talent in the distances,'' Walls said. "And when she was younger, she looked up to Hannah, who was her teammate. I think she's got a chance to beat Hannah's records.''
Church's personal records are 1:52.08 in the 200 and 5:00.99 in the 500.
Personal records or state championships - does Church have a preference?
"I'd like to get them both,'' she said. "I like to race against the people next to me. But mostly, I'm competing against my own times, trying to get faster. I love swimming.''
In addition to Church sweeping the distance events, Grand Forks won three other events, all by Red River entrants.
Erin Grabanski took first in the 200 individual medley (2:14.68) and had legs on two winning relays. Grabanski, Jamie Skavlem, Courtney Fisk and Mirna Kojic won the 200 medley relay, while Grabanski, Kojic, Breanna Schmidt and Addy DiCristina won the 400 freestyle relay.
Eagan, Minn., won the team title, with 371.5 points, followed by defending North Dakota state champion Bismarck Century (348) and Red River (316).
"It went about the way we expected,'' Walls said. "We wanted to see where we're at against Century. They're the favorite to win state again. We were hoping to be close to them, and I think we did a little better than we'd expected. It was a good day for us.''