Prep girls swimming: Bored on the board, Johnson excels in pool

Despite coming from a diving background, versatile Duluth Denfeld senior is at home as a swimmer.

Duluth Denfeld senior Lindsay Johnson swims butterfly during practice Wednesday at Lincoln Park Middle School. (Tyler Schank /
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Lindsay Johnson’s mother and older sister each dove off the 1-meter board for the Duluth Denfeld swimming and diving team.

As a seventh grader, Johnson tried to follow in the family’s footsteps when she joined the Hunters team.

For one day anyway.

“Swimming looked more fun and I didn’t want to be constantly competing with my sister,” Johnson said of her brief time on the board.

It turned out to be a wise decision.


Johnson, now a senior, has posted the Northland’s top times this fall in the sprint freestyles and the 100-yard butterfly.

“Diving ran in her family,” Denfeld coach Cliff Knettel said. “But she focused on swimming and that was a good move.”

Johnson swam distance freestyles early in her career. The 200 and 500 frees are draining events, however, with the 500 taking close to six minutes to complete. Add in all those practices, and that’s a lot of laps in the pool.

“I got sick of the 500 from doing it all the time,” Johnson explained.

So Johnson turned to different events and is having more fun and just as much success.

“The biggest thing is she has evolved as a swimmer,” Knettel said. “When I started coaching her (four years ago), she was almost exclusively a distance swimmer and that was her persona. Over time, she has had an open mind about trying new things. And she not only tried them but she did really well.”

Johnson picked up the 100 butterfly at midseason last year and ended up qualifying for the Minnesota state meet.

“It clicked and the coaches kept putting me in it,” Johnson said. “I ended up liking it.”


Johnson’s ability to excel in new events has her younger teammates unafraid to try new races.

“Some of the younger girls follow her and say, ‘This is a really good example, I can go and try all these different events,’ ” junior Leah Nelson said. “I have watched her grow as a swimmer. She has been working out a lot and drives herself to be a better swimmer.”

Johnson has yet to decide which events to swim at the upcoming Section 7A meet. Defending the 100 fly is likely her top priority but since the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly are held back-to-back that combination is unlikely.

Johnson even went back to the 500 freestyle at a recent meet in Grand Rapids and bettered her own school record by three seconds.

“She’s very versatile and has a lot of options,” Knettel said. “I think she would do well in any of the freestyle races and the 100 fly. She has a bit of a dilemma because she could excel in all five of those races. In the next few days, she is going to narrow it down and decide what she wants to do.”

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