MADISON - Call it destiny. Call it a happy accident. Call it whatever you want.
But when head coach Jenny Heck placed a gold medal around the neck of sophomore Malia Francis, she earned the right to be called a state champion.
"Malia had high goals coming in here and we knew it was a possibility, but she had to swim fast because we knew a lot of the events were going to be really close," Heck said.
Francis won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 56.23, beating the second place finisher by more than a second.
"I was hoping to just be able to pull off one state title … so that was pretty cool," Francis said.
As fate would have it, Heck was handing out the awards for that event, leading to a touching moment on the podium.
"I didn't know and I didn't even know that she knew either," Francis said. "But it was really cool and really special that she was able to hand out the medals for us."
Francis wasn't done yet; she also won a state title in the 100-yard backstroke, putting her on pace to become one of the most decorated swimmers in RHS history.
"After the fly, I was so much more relaxed and it gave me a lot more confidence going into the backstroke and I think it helped a lot," Francis said.
"I just kind of helped her out in the process," Heck said. "I don't take credit for Malia, she's got it."
Rhinelander finished fifth overall thanks to two other podium finishes: one from Makenna Winnicki in the 500-free and another from the 200-medley relay team.
It's just the icing on the cake for a night that the Hodags will never forget.