[EYES ON THE PRIZE: The Duxbury girls’ swim team poses after finishing in 5th place at the South/Central Sectionals at the MIAA Swimming & Diving Championships at MIT on Saturday. They will compete for the State title Sunday at Harvard.]

A total of 15 female athletes traveled to the MIAA South/Central Sectional Swimming & Diving Championships on Saturday held at the Zesiger Pool at MIT. With 12 swimmers and three divers, the talented group placed fifth overall out of 44 schools. At least one Lady Dragon qualified for and competed in every event of this meet. Contributing to this placement were the team’s scorers: juniors Shelby Rader (45 pts) and Ellie Johnson (27 pts), senior Abby Mullen (22 pts), sophomores Hannah Hutchinson (20 pts), Jessie Goldberg (13 pts) and Kelsey Golden (11 pts), senior Sam Tougas (7 pts), sophomores Katie Eagan and Michaela Morris, and junior Caroline McSherry (6 pts each) and freshman Avery Pisani (1 pt).

The meet began with the 200-yard medley relay. In an effort to better their standing at next weekend’s State championship meet, the girls fought hard for fifth place, with Rader setting the pace in the backstroke (28.45), Johnson continuing in the breaststroke (32.80), Mullen maintaining in the butterfly (27.36) and Hutchinson finishing in the freestyle (25.70). Their final time of 1:54.31 cut almost five full seconds off their seed time.

Goldberg and Eagan were next for the Dragons in the 200-yard freestyle. Although both swimmers had already qualified for States, Eagan pushed hard to come in at 2:13.41, while Goldberg improved her time with a 2:07.79.

The difficult 200-yard individual medley proved to be no problem for Johnson, who snagged sixth place with a season low of 2:15.87, bettering her seed time at States.

The 50-yard freestyle, the fastest race of the meet, had two strong swimmers. Hutchinson shaved 2/10s of a second off her time, finishing with a 26.47, improving her already-secured position at States. Rader swam an extremely close and exciting race, grabbing third place overall with a time of 25.22; the highest place of the meet for Duxbury.

Amid the noise and commotion of the swimming events, the divers had to complete 11 dives each. Out of 23 divers, three Lady Dragons, all of whom already secured their positions at States before heading into this meet, made a fine showing of their skills. Newcomer Pisani finished 16th with a score of 298.65. In her fourth and final appearance at Sectionals, Sam Tougas finished 10th with a score of 328.20, while Kelsey Golden placed eighth with a final score of 351.85.

Four girls swam in the 100-yard butterfly. At her first Sectional appearance, sophomore Miranda VanDingstee immediately qualified for States with a time of 1:05.64. Eagan, who already had a State-qualifying time, finished with a 1:04.73.  In a fight to first place in their heat, Mullen touched the wall first with a 1:03.23, followed closely by Morris who qualified with a 1:03.46.

The lone Lady Dragon in the pool for the 100-yard freestyle was Goldberg, who has been chasing down the State qualifying time all season. She finished with a personal best of 58.40, a time which now qualified her for States.

In the longest race of the day, VanDingstee improved her already-qualified State time in the 500-yard freestyle with a 5:46.05. Mullen held the lead in her heat the entire time, lopping almost 14 seconds off her seed-time, firmly guaranteeing her a spot at States (5:40.89).

A swimmer and crowd favorite, the 200-yard freestyle relay had four Lady Dragons battling for place in the final heat. With a finish of 1:46.74, swimmers Goldberg (27.03), McSherry (27.10), Eagan (26.87) and Hutchinson (25.74) carved almost two seconds off their seed time.

The 100-yard backstroke brought some excitement to the pool. In her Sectionals debut, freshman Mary O’Sullivan completed her swim season with a solid 1:07.90, while veteran Rader came from behind, bumping several swimmers out of place in the final heat. She took nearly four full seconds off her time, finishing fourth with a 1:00.78.

As the meet neared a close, three Lady Dragons took to the pool in the 100-yard breaststroke. In their first, hard-earned performance at Sectionals, sophomores Emily Nichols (1:16.62) and Jill Coghlan (1:17.60) finished the season on a high note. Johnson swam a close race, finishing 10th overall, with a personal best of 1:12.14.

In the final event of the day, four experienced swimmers hit the water in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Rader again led the way (55.14), followed by Mullen (56.73), Goldberg (58.32) and Hutchinson (59.10). The season-best time of 3:49.29 put them in fifth place in the event and secured the team’s overall fifth-place finish.

The strength and depth of Coach Jay Craft’s team will make another showing next Sunday evening at the final meet of the season; the MIAA Division 2 State Championships held at Harvard’s Blodgett pool.

The 11 qualifiers hope to better last year’s third-place finish.