Rhinelander’s Winnicki, Francis sign NLI’s to swim at D1 schools
RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) - Rhinelander’s Abi Winnicki and Karis Francis signed their National Letters of Intent to swim at Division 1 schools on Monday. Winnicki will swim at UCLA, while Francis will swim at Liberty.
The event was held in conjunction with a school wide assembly for the Division 2 state champions, which Rhinelander girls swimming won on Friday. The school packed into the gym to celebrate the two athletes and the team. The last time Rhinelander won the state title was in 2020, a year where they couldn’t celebrate like normal due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It doesn’t really feel that real right now. It still has to set in because obviously in 2020 we didn’t get all the excitement,” Winnicki said. “It’s just been great and just feels a bit like a dream still.”
Winnicki’s excitement was two-fold. She was part of the 200-yard and 400-yard first place freestyle relay teams at state. She was also signing to swim in the Big Ten at a Power Five school.
“I’m proud to be able to represent our school and the Hodags and just to be able to bring our talent elsewhere.”
As for Francis, she won two individual gold medals in the 200-yard individual butterfly and the 100-yard breaststroke. She was also part of two relay teams for Rhinelander. For the senior, the day was surreal.
“Abi and I have been looking forward to this day all season. It finally happened, we’re finally done,” Francis said. “It’s also so special to do it with my team. I’m on cloud nine right now.”
The state title was Rhinelander’s second in program history. They’ve now finished first or second at state in three out of the last four seasons.
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