Sometimes it takes a few meets to work out the kinks at the start of a season but not if you're Sarah Dens.
The Brainerd senior has slashed into the pool with fury this fall, winning four individual events and helping a relay win its event while recording three lifetime best times.
In the opener at Bemidji Dens won the 200 free at 2:03.44 and the 100 free at 56.54, both lifetime-best times. She also was a member of the victorious 400 free relay team.
"She swam the 200 free against Bemidji, which is really a tough race to swim when you're not in peak shape, we're barely into our season," Warriors coach Dan Anderson said, "but Sarah went out and got a lifetime best. She swam faster than her section time. She looked real good. Nobody was within half a pool of her. That was an eye-opener.
"In the 100 free, Bemidji had a girl who last year was neck and neck with Sarah, and Sarah went 56.54. That's right where she left off last year. That's just an outstanding time."
Two days later, against Alexandria, Dens won the 50 free at 25.81 and the 100 free at 57.19.
"It was kind of a last-minute decision to take her out of the 200 free and put her in the 50," Anderson said, "and she went a 25.81. That's just outstanding so we're not sure (what events she will be in) at the end of the year. That's a very fast time.
"She was a tick slower in the 100 and we switched her up and put her on the medley relay. We had a nice time with her on the end.
"She's off to a fantastic start."
Dens believes she owes her start to offseason workouts.
Events: 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle, 200 free relay, 400 free relay
Career highlight: Qualifying for state as freshman with 200 free relay
Grade-point average: 4.2
Favorite subject: Calculus
Favorite movie Pride and Prejudice
Favorite Web site: Facebook
Hobbies: Playing piano, reading
Future plans: Possibly attend University of Minnesota Morris, possibly major in mathematics or education
Parents: Kevin and Cathy Dens
"I swam on the YMCA Dolphins team, that helped me stay in shape," she said. "In the spring I went into power conditioning with two friends, they're also swimmers. We lifted weights really hard. I think that helped a lot.
"Also in the summer I swam twice a day, morning and afternoon. For two weeks in June I went to the University of Minnesota swim camp, which really helped a lot. It was a lot of conditioning and hard work. It helped me with my stroke too."
Anderson agreed the offseason has been the difference for Dens.
"She's really put in a lot of extra time the last two years in the offseason," he said. "She's swimming in the summer. She's gotten so much stronger. She really got serious about strength training, that's really what it is.
"She's always been a competitor. She's always had the ability, now she's strong enough to go out and beat people. I'm excited for her. I think she's going to have a big year."
State meet experience is another factor as she enters her final prep season. Dens has been a member of three relays that competed in the state meet. Last year she was on the 22nd-place 200 medley relay. In 2007 she was on the 10th-place 200 free relay. As a freshman she was on the 13th-place 200 free relay.
"It's such an exciting meet," Dens said. "It's just really exciting. That motivates me every year to make it to state again."
Being a captain this year also motivates Dens.
"I just want to work hard every day in practice, just be happy to be at practice," she said. "I'm going try to motivate the team to work hard because that's how you get better. I also want to cheer on the team all the time."
Other notable efforts:
• Tennis players Mikinzee Salo, Briana Rademacher, Courtney Tusler and Samantha Kletscher won titles in the Camp Lake Hubert tournament.
• Jimmy Dean, cross country, won the Brainerd Invite.
• Reid Mimmack, football, passed for 204 yards and a touchdown against Tech.
• Kyle Crocker, football, had 109 yards receiving against Tech.
• Madison Smith and Stacy Tetreault, girls' soccer, had hat tricks against Sauk Rapids.
• Joe Nelson and Jake Williams, boys' soccer, had hat tricks against Sauk Rapids.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.