There was a time, when she was a very young girl, when Ellen Bloom cried all the way to swimming lessons. Not anymore. The swimming champ came back to Sartell all smiles when the Sartell Sabres earned second place, behind champion Northfield, in the Class A state championships last weekend in the Twin Cities.
It’s hard to believe Bloom wasn’t born swimming and loving every minute of it.
At the Minneapolis Aquatic Center last weekend, she won first place in the 200-yard individual medley (the second time in two years she has done that), and she also won first place in the 100-yard backstroke race. She was also champ in those two races last year, helping bring the Sabres to their second state championship. Their first was in 2009.
“I didn’t like swimming lessons,” Bloom recalled. “I took them when we lived in Wisconsin. But when I was about age 10 I started liking swimming. That’s when I joined a swim club in St. Cloud.”
The Blooms moved to Sartell when Ellen was in first grade.
At last weekend’s meet, in a last breathless moment, Bloom helped her team edge ahead of the Visitation High School team during the last event of the weekend – the 400-yard freestyle relay. That is when Visitation was in second place, ahead of Sartell by just a point. Bloom, who was the fourth relay team member (the “anchor”) plunged in when the team was just two points behind in the relay race. Swimming fast and furious, she touched the other end of the pool where her fans and friends erupted into a joyous frenzy. Bloom and her team had earned second place and bested Visitation in the tough competition. She beat her competitor, Emily Conors of Visitation, by 2.16 seconds with a time of 50.66.
The other members of the relay team for that race were Jennifer Thompson, Anna Ellis and Gaby Hagen.
“I heard them cheer before it was my turn,” she said, “but once in the water I was so focused on what I was doing I didn’t hear anything. It was stressful, but I knew the whole team was there behind me, and I also do well under pressure, and that helped.”
Under the coaching of Dave Olson, the Sabres girls swim team were state champions in 2009 and 2011.
Bloom and her team were elated to win second place this year, partly because they’d faced some obstacles along the way. The team was unusually young this year, for one thing. For another, champion swimmer, senior Marisa Wood, could not participate because of an illness, although she was able to be at the meet to cheer her teammates on. Wood won the 500-yard freestyle championship eight times, every year since she was in seventh grade. The only two seniors among the 13 girls who competed were Bloom and Lauren Martens.
“It meant the world to me and to the other girls that Marisa was there,” Bloom said. “Her support was so helpful to us, to pull off something great.”
Bloom credited the Sabres’ excellent swimming, including her own, to team work.
“That’s what I like best about high-school swimming,” she said. “It’s my teammates, my best friends. We see each other so much, and I couldn’t ask for better girls. They are the sweetest, nicest, classiest girls.”
Bloom’s parents, Goeff and Karla, were at the meet, as well as her other sibling, brother Ryan, who is now a graduate student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Other fans included women who had been part of the Sabres team in previous years: Mollie Giffin, Kate Hellie, Paige Kohlman and Bonnie Sova. Bloom also credited Sabres alternate swimmers for contributing to the team’s cohesion and morale boosting – Ellie Hill, Kate Karpel, Paige Pawlenty and Sara Symanietz. Freshman Pawlenty swam in the freestyle relay and the 100-yard butterfly Friday, the first day of the two-day meet.
Like all Sabres swimmers, Bloom worked extremely hard in-season and out-of-season. She belongs to a swim club in Edina and swims there with a coach’s guidance four days a week. After graduation, she will attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, on a swimming scholarship. She is not yet sure of her area of study. Bloom’s hobbies are hanging out with her friends and playing piano whenever she can find the time.
The Sabres earned 175 points at the weekend meet. Northfield won first with 223 points. Third place was Visitation with 172. The others, in order of their points, were Mankato West, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Albert Lea, Hutchinson, Blake, Monticello, Foley, Melrose, Albany, Sauk Centre and Sauk Rapids.
One of the crowd-pleasing highlights for Sabres’ fans and teammates at the meet was when Anna Ellis, a seventh-grader, came in sixth in the 100-backstroke race, the one that Bloom won.
The following are other highlights of the Sabres’ weekend achievements:
Third place in the 100-yard medley relay. Participating members were Anna Ellis, Lindsey Martens, Bloom and Lauren Martens.
Third place in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Members were Jennifer Thompson, Lindsey Martens, Lauren Martens (Lindsey and Lauren are sisters) and Gaby Hagen.
200-yard individual medley: Ellen Bloom 1st place, Gaby Hagen 11th place.
50-yard freestyle: Jennifer Thompson 16th place.
Diving: Madison Molitor 15th place.
100-yard butterfly: Gaby Hagen 12th place.
100-yard freestyle: Jennifer Thompson 14th place.
500-yard freestyle: Kendra Raths 14th place.
100-yard breastroke: Lindsey Martens 13th place.