November 14, 2018 06:47 PM
(ABC 6 News) – The Albert Lea Tigers are sending a pair of swimmers to the Minnesota state high school girls swimming & diving meet this week—and it’s two swimmers who will act like they’ve been there before, because, they have.
Albert Lea sophomore Jaeda Koziolek is competing in her third career meet, while senior teammate Emily Taylor has qualified to compete in her sixth—that’s right, sixth—career state meet.
“They’re just solid, hard-working kids,” Tigers head coach David Voller said. “Very coachable, they always want to learn, they always want to get better. They’re always doing their best and pushing each other and racing in practice, and it shows in the meets as well.”
Voller describes Koziolek and Taylor as the “first ones on deck,” and the “last ones off” on a routine basis at practice.
“They’re a coach’s dream,” Voller added.
Taylor and Koziolek are good friends, and they’re also “training buddies,” which they said helps separate them from the rest of the pack—and compete with smiles on their faces.
“Everyone says to ‘have fun,’ and I genuinely want to have fun,” Taylor said.
Entering last week’s Section 1A Championships in Rochester, both Taylor and Koziolek said they were “relieved” when it came to an end.
“It was super nerve-wracking,” Taylor said. “Leading up, it’s like ‘this is your one moment’.”
“I was really nervous, a lot more nervous than I have been in the past,” Koziolek added. “I can’t really see anyone when I’m swimming. I get really worried about who’s next to me.”
Koziolek is referencing her specialty event, the 100-yard backstroke. After qualifying for the Section 1A Finals in the preliminaries, Koziolek finished the finals by finishing the backstroke in 1:00.88—qualifying for the state meet.
“(Jaeda is) really determined and she works so hard,” Taylor said. “I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without her.”
Koziolek also competed in the 100-yard butterfly event, finishing in 1:00.64 (.18 seconds short of the state qualifying time). Punching a ticket to the state meet though is a win for Koziolek this year, especially due to the fact that she has dealt with a shoulder injury this fall.
“(The injury) was hard (to deal with),” Koziolek said. “But I learned a lot from it.”
Taylor, a senior captain, finished the 50-yard freestyle in 25.01 seconds—that was .08 short of the state qualifying time. Despite being so close, Taylor finished the Section 1A Championships strong by finishing the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:09.08, which was good enough for the state meet.
“(Emily is) a great leader on the team, which gives her more confidence,” Koziolek, who also described Taylor as the “best captain she’s ever had,” said. “She’s always willing to work hard. She’s never going to refuse a set. She’s going to take it (head-on), and she’s going to destroy it, because she knows that’s what it takes to be the best.”
Taylor will continue swimming at the collegiate level at Minnesota State University, Mankato next year, where she will study Elementary Education.
Besides Koziolek, Taylor credits one of her best friends since childhood—former Albert Lea standout swimmer and current Minnesota Golden Gopher swimmer Lindsey Kozelsky (Horejsi), for helping “pave the way” for herself and Koziolek.
“Even if you’re from a small town, you can still achieve greatness,” Taylor said. “Not many people can say ‘oh, I swam with a national record-holder.’.”
“Lindsey has had a huge impact on the girls,” Voller added. “She set the framework of how to swim in practices, what being a great swimmer is like, and giving them the motivation to get to that point themselves.”
Taylor and Koziolek want to replicate what Horejsi did for years, and make Albert Lea proud at state—they’re both hoping to finish in the top 8 at the 2018 state meet.
“(Lindsey) showed me that being from a small town, you can still make waves and still be a good swimmer,” Koziolek said. “The size of your program doesn’t have to inhibit how far you go.”
“(Albert Lea has) been my home,” Taylor added. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Genuinely, it has shaped me to who I am today.”
The 2018 Minnesota state girls swimming & diving meet opens on Wednesday and continues through Friday.
Updated: November 14, 2018 06:47 PM
Created: November 13, 2018 09:32 PM
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