Any day that a swimmer can stand on the podium four separate times, it has been a good day. Papio/Papio South sophomore Olivia Dendinger did exactly that on Saturday at the 2020 NSAA State Swimming Championships.
Dendinger competed in two relays for Papio/Papio South and two individual races. reaching the podium in all of them.
“She’s a stud,” Papio/Papio South head coach Nick Baker said about Dendinger. “I wouldn’t trade her for anybody.
“She’s the ultimate teammate, works hard every day and shows up and does what is expected of her.
“She is here to get better and she is also here to make her teammates better and you don’t always have that combination of traits and person and she has that. She is just a good kid.”
Dendinger’s best finish was second in the 200 freestyle relay along with Elizabeth Ford, Lily Cunningham and Sydney Taake. That same relay team finished fourth in the 200 medley relay.
Dendinger then went on to finish fourth in the 100 yard breaststroke with a time of 1:05.17. She also finished sixth in the 100 yard butterfly with a time of 58.75.
“I like the 200-medley relay, that is my favorite relay and then I love the 100 fly. This was my first-time swimming it at a big meet and I did pretty good for that,” Dendinger said about her favorite races.
The Papio/Papio South girls team finished fifth overall and the boys team finished eighth.
“I think it has been overall one of the best seasons I have been a part of,” Baker said.
“I have been here seven years and when I look at how we are placing as a boys and a girls team they are both doing really well. I can’t really think of a season as a whole that has been better.”
Dendinger echoed similar sentiments about the team’s season.
“I think it has been really good,” Dendinger said. “Everyone has swam super good and I think it has been one of the better seasons in my opinion. I got a lot out of this season.”
When talking to Dendinger, she gives all the praise to her teammates and coaches and is humble about her own individual success. This goes back to the teams chemistry that Baker was proud of.
“This is probably one of the most close-knit teams that I have coached,” Baker said. “Girls team, boys’ team and combined. It has been a lot of fun and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”
For Dendinger, her off season goals coming into this season were simple.
“Just getting better and just working hard in practice. State was my biggest goal and doing as good as I did.”
Dendinger would be very accomplished if she was a senior, but as a sophomore the sky is the limit for what she can accomplish at the state meet. Her goals for the next two years are simple and focused as well.
“Faster times and I would like to place higher next season.”
Dendinger added, “I would like to win any event at state, at least one or two. So that is my goal before I graduate.”
The state meet is the highest level of competition and can be nerve wrecking for young swimmers. Coach Baker just wanted to make sure his team did not forget to have fun.
“I just tried to keep them levelheaded and make sure they still see the fun in it. If you show up here and you are all business and super serious then it is easy to psych yourself out, so I wanted them to be laid back.
“Luckily most of them have been swimming long enough that they have swam in big meets before, so this isn’t something that is totally new to them.”