MHS Girls Swim Team Dominates at Division 1 State


Kristen Biddle Haag

The 2022 State team poses at Sectionals the week prior with their celebratory cowboy hats and first-place trophy! (From L-R) Audrey Alexander (10), Sophie Benson (12), Natalie Charles (12), Abby Ensenberger (12), Isabell Frommelt (10), Piper Garcia-Hall (11), Tait Haag (11), Hannah Machleidt (10), Lily Mair (11) and Sulia Miller (9) Emma Kleine (12)

Poppy Wedding and Irene Lee

The Middleton High School girls swim team competed at the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division One State meet at Waukesha South High School on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. This meet was the last of the season, and Middleton came in fourth out of 37 teams from around the state. 

The girls had been tapering, or slowly lessening their training in order to build up strength, for several weeks to prepare for the meet. However, they had all been working towards this day since the beginning of the season. Their improvement had already shown with an undefeated dual meet season and wins at Junior Varsity Conference, Varsity Conference, and Sectionals. Going into the meet, the team was seated fourth. Their goal was to solidify their rank. 

The team had a very small group of just ten out of 56 swimmers going on to state: Audrey Alexander (10), Sophie Benson (12), Natalie Charles (12), Abby Ensenberger (12), Isabell Frommelt (10), Piper Garcia-Hall (11), Tait Haag (11), Hannah Machleidt (10), Lily Mair (11) and Sulia Miller (9). 

They also had a strong group of coaches leading the team to its success: head coach Raymond Joseph “RJ” Leiferman and assistant coaches Danielle Finley, Mike Keleny and Caroline “CJ” Hippen. They helped the swimmers both in and out of the water by giving the swimmers an extra push of motivation in the water, and motivating them during dryland workouts and meditation. This was only Leiferman’s second year as head coach, but that did not diminish the team’s success.

Swimmers dive into the water during the 200 IM. Senior Natalie Charles can be seen in lane six, finishing ninth place overall. (Kristen Biddle Haag)

The morning of State, the girls started off with a team breakfast and headed to the pool all together. At the pool, the rest of the girls on the team provided a hype-up for the state girls by decorating the locker room and blasting music when the state girls got ready to leave for State. 

Shortly after, the team bus left Middleton High School around 11 a.m. and arrived at Waukesha around an hour later. The girls did the same routine they had done every Friday and Saturday for the previous three months: a 20 minute dryland warm-up followed by an hour spent in the water, practicing starts and turns in the unfamiliar pool. They were putting the final touches on what they had been working on all season. They were as polished as ever and had a roller-coaster of emotions for the day ahead. Anxiety, excitement, fear, enthusiasm, team spirit…the list goes on and on. 

Tension was high as the pool cleared and quieted. The relay teams gathered behind the blocks to cheer each other on. Whispers of “good luck” echoed on the cold tile floors. The swimmers prepared for the first event of the day: the 200 yard medley relay. Middleton out touched one of their biggest competitors, Verona, by over a second and placed fifth. 

It was very exciting to watch the day play out and the Middleton swimmers’ hard work paid off. All three relays of the day placed in the top five, scoring 86 points alone. Middleton also had many of their swimmers earn top-16 individual placements, adding up to 182.5 points overall.

Some of the highlights were the 500-yard free, in which Tait Haag scored fifth, Hannah Machleidt scored eighth and Sophie Benson scored 12th. Another great event was the 200-yard free, with Tait Haag scoring eighth, Sophie Benson scoring 11th, Audrey Alexander close behind in 12th and Abby Ensenberger in 14th. For the team, this was a great end to an even greater season. It was bittersweet for seniors Benson, Charles and Ensenberger, to see their high school swim careers end, but they were all so proud of their accomplishments.