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Eventually St. Cloud State wins over Bergman, who signs with Huskies

Eventually St. Cloud State wins over Bergman, who signs with Huskies Eventually St. Cloud State wins over Bergman, who signs with Huskies

With her older sister Abbie having recently competed at and graduated from St. Cloud State University, it would seem natural for the Huskies to have a recruiting inroad for Medford senior swimmer Erin Bergman.

Or not.

“I never wanted to follow Abbie’s footsteps and go to St. Cloud, so I refused,” Erin said Monday moments after signing her national letter of intent to accept a scholarship offer to swim for the Huskies. “My family would bring it up and I’d just say, ‘nope, I don’t want to go there. I’m not going to go there.’ I want to say for a couple of years I kept saying ‘no, I’m not going to St. Cloud, not doing it.’” But, as the time to make a decision drew closer and the options were weighed, Bergman said there was no doubt St. Cloud State was rising above the rest as the place to continue her swimming career and pursue her preferred field of study, nuclear medicine technology.

She verbally made the commitment several weeks ago and put pen to paper to make it official in a low-key signing at Medford Area Senior High Monday morning attended by her parents, Randy and Shari, activities director Andy Guden and district administrator Pat Sullivan.

“It’s pretty exciting, definitely,” Bergman said.

The signing came three days after Bergman ended her swim career with the Raiders by earning her fourth WIAA Division 2 state medal in the 100-yard backstroke with a fifth-place finish at the state meet. She also was part of Medford’s sixth-place, medal-winning finish in the 200-yard medley relay, got eighth place in the 100-yard freestyle and leaves with five school records to her credit, three in individual events and two in relays.

“I was looking at a couple of different schools like Green Bay, IUPUI, the University of South Dakota,” Bergman said.

“But St. Cloud just fit me the most. It’s the only school that had what I wanted to go into academically. Even their pool and everything like that, just fit me the best too. The coaches definitely had my best interests in mind.”

Of course, she took a little grief at home when she realized she had to back off her earlier declarations.

“I think it was actually me who eventually was like, ‘yah, I think I want to go to St. Cloud,’” Erin said. “My family was like, ‘Really? Seriously? We’ve been telling you for how long?’” “Once you actually talk to the coach and get his perspective on things, then it just kind of instills in you that this might be the right one,” Shari said.

Bergman will join a program led by Jeff Hegle, who completed his 19th season as the Huskies’ head coach in the 2019-20 season. Unfortunately, the team’s 2020-21 season hasn’t gotten off the ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic. St. Cloud State won its second straight Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship in 2019-20 and was competing in the NCAA Division II Championships in Geneva, Ohio in March when the meet was halted.

The team’s schedule typically takes it to meets throughout Minnesota and the Dakotas, with an occasional stop in Wisconsin.

“They’re pretty good,” Erin said. “It’s a good team. Everyone is pretty close. They do a lot of team bonding stuff.”

The Bergman family was first introduced to Hegle and the Huskies’ program when Abbie committed to swim there in the fall of 2014. She was part of the program from the 2015-16 through 2018-19 seasons, swimming in a variety of individu- al events and relays.

Erin could be in line for a similar role.

“I think (Hegle) mentioned that I’d be more so with the stroke sprint to mid-distance group,” she said. “Definitely something backstroke. I would be on the conference lineup and everything like that.”

“Coach Hegle is a good guy to have as coach,” Randy Bergman said. “He cares about the kids a lot. He makes sure that their grades are up before they even hit the pool. As parents, you can hand him your kids and you know that he’ll take care of them. That’s a good feeling for us.”

Erin Bergman came to Medford’s high school program as a highly-touted freshman in 2017 after plenty of success at the youth club level, but head coach Betsy Meinel said Bergman never quit working to improve in her time with the Raiders.

“Erin was always a great swimmer, even on her first day as a freshman,” Meinel said. “She has put in a lot of time and effort over the last few years refining her strokes and enabling herself to continually achieve her goals and break records. She never stopped trying to be better and swim faster. She has swam in 12 events at state with five podium finishes and currently holds five school records. I have enjoyed being able to watch her become the amazing swimmer I knew she could be.”

“My freestyle has improved a lot in the past four years,” Bergman said. “Definitely my sprinting freestyle has come a long way. Like Betsy and I have said for the past couple of weeks, in college the coach is definitely going to be working my underwaters and my turns because I need to kick and I don’t do that. So I’ll still be able to drop a lot of time in college, just based off of that.”

“College is going to offer opportunities to help her continue to grow and swim even faster in the years to come,” Meinel said. “I can’t even predict what she will do in the future because she can swim anything, and do it well. She was always that swimmer I could put into any event and knew she would give it her best and succeed. She has been a leader both in and out of the pool and a spectacular role model for all future Medford swimmers. I am happy to be able to call myself one of her coaches and can’t wait to see what she will do in the coming years at St. Cloud.”

Bergman said her four-year run with the Raiders was rewarding, particularly this past season, which she and her teammates certainly did not take for granted amid the pandemic. “I’m just lucky that I got to have my senior year because no one thought that we were going to get as far as state,” she said. “We didn’t even think we were going to get as far as conference. At least I got all four. I didn’t get three and a half.

“Honestly, since I was in Swim Club when I was little, before middle school even, I knew I wanted to swim in college,” Bergman added. “But then, it was just, ‘I want to swim in college when I’m older.’ That was probably just because of Abbie. When I got into middle school, it was like, OK, now we need to kick it into gear because you’re going to have to work hard now so that when I’m in high school, I’m going to have good enough times to make it into college.”

Raider Erin Bergman cuts through the water during her fastest 100-yard backstroke performance yet during Friday’s state meet. Bergman lowered her own school record to 58.43 seconds and placed fifth to earn her fourth top-six medal in the event.JEREMY MAYO/NORTHWOODS RIVER NEWS