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A state title years in the making for Rhinelander

Published: Nov. 14, 2020 at 10:42 PM CST
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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) - The Rhinelander girls swimming team will go down in Hodag lore. The girls brought home the program’s first state title in girls swimming last night.

“A lot of us were in shock,” said Rhinelander junior swimmer Malia Francis. “It hadn’t really set in yet.”

“I can’t even explain it,” said Rhinelander freshman swimmer Abi Winnicki. “It doesn’t feel real yet.”

The tears were flowing after the last race for the Hodags. It wasn’t just a state title. It was much more.

“Swimming is a lifelong sport,” said Rhinelander senior swimmer Makenna Winnicki. “We’ve grown to love each other. We’re all best friends.”

These girls have been in the pool their whole lives. Yesterday reinforced that fighting through the challenges brings on success.

“It’s great to end off my season, my career as this,” said Makenna Winnicki.

“It’s just so rewarding to know that we’ve worked hard and put in all the time and the effort, and to see our season end like this is just such a rewarding feeling,” said Abi Winnicki.

No one proved working hard pays off more than Malia Francis. The junior stole the show winning all four of the races she competed in.

“I couldn’t do this without my team for sure, and all the support they’ve given me,” said Francis.

Francis first got her toes wet when she was five years old. Proving this was 12 years in the making.

“I’ve been swimming pretty much my whole life, so I’ve worked toward this,” said Francis.

A title that will be etched in the record books capped by a finger-tip finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay. That’s when the waterworks were turned on, but those tears only added to the joy that was in the pool.

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