The comment suggested to Gabrielle Hagen was that the Sartell sophomore ought to enjoy the colors gold and blue, as in gold medals and blue ribbons.
For the Sartell girls swimming and diving team, blue and gold are prominent colors for a program that won its second state Class A championship in three years in 2011 and is hoping for another title this season.
“It’s our favorite colors at Sartell,” senior Ellen Bloom said. “We like blue and gold.
“It matches our uniform.”
Hagen, Bloom and Lauren Martens are returning state champions for the Sabres, who are 6-0 in the Central Lakes Conference, 7-0 overall and swim at 6 p.m. Thursday at St. Cloud Apollo.
“So far, it’s been good,” said Martens, a senior captain with Bloom who is considering continuing her swim career at St. Thomas or joining the club team at Minnesota-Duluth. “We’re undefeated as a team and working hard.”
Sartell then is host to a true-team sectional at noon Saturday.
Other big moments on the schedule include the Sabres’ final regular-season dual meet Oct. 16 at Willmar, the conference championships Oct. 25 and 27 at Willmar and then the section championships Nov. 9-10 at Sartell.
In the back of everyone’s minds at Sartell is the state meet Nov. 15-17 at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center in Minneapolis.
“I think we’ve trained hard enough to be state champs,” Bloom said.
“I think we want it bad enough,” Hagen said.
“We train like we’re underdogs and we compete like we’re underdogs,” Bloom said. “It’s definitely different for me being the hunted instead of the hunter.”
Bloom, defending state champion in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200 individual medley and part of the Sabres’ first-place 200 medley relay teams, is being heavily recruited by some big-time programs.
Minnesota, Purdue, Notre Dame and Stanford have all scheduled recruiting visits for her, with all expenses paid by those schools.
Sartell head coach Dave Olson is not surprised.
“I think with her drive and her ability, the sky’s the limit,” Olson said. “With the right program, she can go as far as she wants.”
Bloom said she’d like to stay closer to home, but it depends on what’s offered scholarship-wise.
“I definitely want to go somewhere strong academically with an established team I can swim with and improve as an athlete,” Bloom said.
She said she can hardly believe she’s talking about college.
“I still feel like a seventh-grader, so never mind being a senior captain,” she said. “Everyone tells you how fast it goes, but it’s crazy. Until you live it, you don’t realize how fast.”
Bloom’s work ethic gives her chance to be an outstanding college swimmer, Olson said. But that goes for all the Sabres, who practice twice a day. They go at 5:44 a.m. each day, “to start one minute before the boys,” Martens said. Then, they practice for two-plus hours again after school.
Sartell typically trains 24 hours a week, Bloom said.
It’s paying off.
“She’s training really hard,” Olson said of Bloom. “She came in really fast (from off-season workouts). Now she’s staying really fast. It’s been kind of like a roller-coaster time-wise depending on what we’re doing.
“She’s extremely dedicated and focused and knows that she can’t be breaking school records when she’s put in a ton of yards.”
Bloom, Martens and Hagen are three of the keys to a repeat, which was hindered when senior captain Marisa Wood had to sit out the season with an illness. Olson said Wood is very supportive and rooting hard for the Sabres to repeat. She’s a multiple state champion and record-holder and would have made a third state title in four years more likely.
Instead, the Sabres believe they have the leadership to pull it off with the rest of the squad.
“Her and Lauren both take huge leadership roles,” Olson said. “If I have to step out for a moment, if they don’t know what the plans are that day, they make a plan. They’re like having two more coaches on the deck.
“And that permeates with the younger girls, too. And they both help with the younger swimmers as well.”
He said his the season has been remarkable and hopes everything can work out with another state championship.
“You know what, that would be something,” Olson said. “That’s all I have to say about that.”