'We're a well-rounded team': Midgets swim and dive team aims for improved results at state
The Dickinson High girls swim and dive team will travel to West Fargo on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 8, for the 2018 State Swimming and Diving meet taking place that weekend. The team will do so with its largest class of individual state-qualifiers in program history.
One year after 10 swimmers were sent to state, the Midgets will have 15 girls participating on the grand stage this year.
"When you got 15 out of 20, basically three-fourths of the team qualifying for state, you definitely have depth on the team," Midgets head coach Jenna Wolf said. "We're a well-rounded team with a lot of versatility within the group too, where it's not just one event that's stacked with all of our swimmers; we have a swimmer in every event."
Dickinson increased its state figures thanks to a late-season surge. After the Midgets captured first place at the Jamestown Invite on Oct. 13 — their first invitational win since the team split from a co-op with Williston in 2015, senior Hannah Rathgeber sealed her spot for West Fargo in the 100-yard butterfly and 200 freestyle in a home dual against Moorhead (Minn.) on Oct. 26, bringing the team's total to 11.
Eight days later, at the WDA Regional meet, four more girls earned their place at state. With more participating at state, Wolf hopes to improve on the 13th-place finish from a year ago. Dickinson has not finished higher than 13th in state competition.
"Their performances have brought up their confidence a little bit. It should give them confidence and momentum moving forward," Wolf said.
Freshman Savanna Baranko is one of the four swimmers who punched their ticket at the regional meet, swimming the 500 freestyle in five minutes, 51.31 second, more than 18 seconds faster than the qualifying cut-off time.
"I was very nervous. I had hope that I could do it and all of my teammates supported me, but I still was very nervous," Baranko said with a slight grin. "I had my teammates support and after all of the hard practices where I put in hard work, that led to just believing in myself."
The Midgets will have five first-time state qualifiers, led by seventh-graders Mara Ellerkamp, who made the mark in the 200- and 500-freestyle, and Aryana Twist, who will compete in the 50 freestyle. Eighth-grader Ericka Williams will make her state debut in the 100 backstroke while fellow eighth-grader Teghan Hoff and senior Gracie Morel will participate in the 1-meter dive.
Dickinson will have also have the services of senior Brianna Ashworth. She was the only Midget to swim in the finals of an individual event last year, taking seventh place in the 200 individual medley.
As someone who is familiar with the stage, Ashworth's advice to the first-timers is to enjoy the moment and take pride in their achievements leading to this point.
"I will say that its huge accomplishment to just qualify at all," Ashworth said. "It doesn't matter if you make it to finals or not, because when I was a seventh grader, I was trying my hardest and it was such a big accomplishment for me just to qualify. I just want them to know that they did such a great job and worked so hard, especially for the ones that are so young to make it to a state team."
Ashworth, who was named to the WDA All-Conference team along with sophomore Hailey Rathgeber, will compete in the 100 backstroke and in the 200 IM, hoping to cut into her time of 2:17.64 from a year ago.
While Wolf has yet to announce the team's relay pairings, Ashworth figures to be an integral part of Wolf's selections. After a decorated career, the senior is eager for her last swims as a member of the Dickinson High program.
"I think that's going to honestly make me try my hardest since it's the last time I'll get to do it," Ashworth said. "I probably will be sad, but not until the very last day, because I think I'll be so excited about state."