Bluejay Girls host Sectionals, four swimmers advance to State

Celebrating their third place finish in the 200 Yard Medley Relay, from the top down: Marissa Miles, Olivia Pajtash, Claire Jirovec and Addison Jirovec. Submitted photo.


The Merrill Bluejays Varsity Girls Swim Team hosted Sectionals on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, at Prairie River Middle School (PRMS). Competing against teams from Antigo, Colby/Abbotsford (Coop Team), Ladysmith, Lakeland Union High School, Medford, Menomonie, Mosinee, Rhinelander, Rice Lake, Tomahawk, Wausau East, and Wittenberg-Birnamwood, the girls had to put forth their best effort to stand out in the competition. All of the competitors with a first place finish in each of four Sectional meets throughout the state qualified to go on to the State competition. Merrill didn’t have any first place finishes during the Sectional meet, but “then they pool the times from all 4 Sectionals and the next 12 fastest times make it” in each event, Merrill Varsity Girls Swim Team Head Coach Kristie Winter said.

Olivia Pajtash, Merrill Varsity Girls Swim Team Captain, on the podium after taking second place in the 500 Yard Freestyle. Submitted photo

All four Sectional events were held on Saturday, and Winter got the call Saturday night to say four Merrill swimmers qualified to go on to State in two different events.
In the 200 Yard Medley Relay, a team of four Lady Jays who have worked together the majority of this season in this event–Addison Jirovec, Olivia Pajtash, Marissa Miles and Claire Jirovec–will be competing together at State, and Olivia Pajtash will also be competing in an individual event–the 500 Yard Freestyle.
“Merrill had some phenomenal swims today at our Sectional meet,” Winter said after Saturday’s meet. “The girls have worked so hard this season and it really showed through.”
“The team will be headed to the DII State Swim Meet in Waukesha on Friday,” she said. They are planning to leave around 10 a.m. with a police and fire escort, going through town past Washington School and then PRMS and hope to see some hometown support to cheer them on as they get ready to leave town.
The team of four Merrill swimmers will compete “in the very first heat of the very first event,” Winter said, so the girls will be excited to kick things off. The competition begins at 5:30 p.m. Then the ladies will have to wait a while until teammate Olivia Pajtash is up to compete in event 8, the 500 Yard Freestyle.
Good luck at State, Addison, Claire, Marissa, and Olivia!

Patricia Priebe swimming the 200 Yard Freestyle. Joseph Frederick photo.

Marissa Miles also narrowly missed going to State this year. “[She] missed qualifying by one spot,” Winter said. “She was 13th after they pooled the times, in the 100 Yard Freestyle event. Missing her first chance at individual state by 0.15 seconds as a Freshman. [It’s] a huge let down but also lots of room to grow. She has a great future.”

Olivia Pajtash swimming the Breaststroke leg of the State-qualifying 200 Yard Medley Relay. Joseph Frederick photo.

Sectional results
The top Merrill Girls in each event at Sectionals were:
Event 1. Diving (No Merrill girls were competing in this event.)
Event 2. 200 Yard Medley Relay, Addison Jirovec, Olivia Pajtash, Marissa Miles, and Claire Jirovec came in 3rd place at 1:56.73.
Event 3. 200 Yard Freestyle, Emily Winter came in 12th place at 2:18.91.
Event 4. 200 Yard IM, Marissa Miles came in 9th place at 2:23.12.
Event 5. 50 Yard Freestyle, Claire Jirovec came in 10th place at 26.43.
Event 6. 100 Yard Butterfly, Caroline Durbin came in 13th place at 1:11.55.
Event 7. 100 Yard Freestyle, Marissa Miles came in 7th place at 57.06.
Event 8. 500 Yard Freestyle, Olivia Pajtash came in 2nd place at 5:36.58.
Event 9. 200 Yard Freestyle Relay, Claire Jirovec, Emily Winter, Brenna Jirovec, and Caroline Durbin came in 9th place at 1:51.36.
Event 10. 100 Yard Backstroke, Addison Jirovec came in 8th place at 1:06.37.
Event 11. 100 Yard Breaststroke, Olivia Pajtash came in 7th place at 1:16.24.
Event 12. 400 Yard Freestyle Relay, Oliva Pajtash, Marissa Miles, Claire Jirovec, and Addison Jirovec came in 6th place at 4:00.51.

Team Rankings:

  1. Rhinelander 424.5
  2. Rice Lake 194
  3. Wausau East 190
  4. Medford 182
  5. Ladysmith Co-op 171
  6. Merrill 167
  7. Wittenberg-Birnamwood 164
  8. Colby/Abbotsford Co op 148
  9. Black River Falls Co-op 139
  10. Lakeland 132
  11. Tomahawk 89.5
  12. Mosinee 62
  13. Menomonie 43
  14. Antigo/Wabeno 36
Caroline Durbin, swimming the 100 Yard Butterfly. Joseph Frederick photo.

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