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West Fargo's Alex Smestad (left) shakes hands with Fargo North's Jon Bell-Clement after finishing their legs of the 200-yard medley relay during the West Fargo Quadrangular on Saturday at LE Berger Pool in West Fargo. The Packers relay team finished the event in first place. Dave Wallis / Forum Communications Co.

FULL STEAM AHEAD

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The Packers hosted the West Fargo Quadrangular on Saturday as the opener to their boys swimming and diving season.

By meet's end, West Fargo had accumulated 744 points to beat out defending East Region champion Fargo North, as well as Davies and Grand Forks.

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But for longtime Packers coach Marsha Dahl, kicking off the season with a victory is bittersweet.

"When you win, it puts more pressure on yourself and your team," said Dahl, who is in her 23rd year of coaching both boys and girls West Fargo swimming teams. "I don't like winning everything because then you're expected."

Still, it's tough for the Packers not to win with some sort of frequency. They've been blessed with a notoriously strong program that thrives from a vibrant feeder system. Until last year, West Fargo had won three straight Eastern Dakota Conference titles. At the state tournament, it placed third just behind the Spartans.

And even though it was not the best weekend for the quad because teams were not at full strength due to ACT testing, there is a good bet this West Fargo team is every bit as good as it historically has been.

For starters, the Packers return a plethora of top swimmers, including veterans with experience at top levels of competition.

One such athlete is junior Ethan Doll. A three-time All-State and All-Conference honoree, Doll picked up wins Saturday in the 100-yard butterfly and 500 freestyle, while also swimming legs with the winning 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard free relay teams.

With talent in both sprint and endurance races, Doll is a venerable Swiss Army knife.

But he's not the only one.

Another three-time All-EDC and All-State honoree is Adam Smestad. On Saturday, the senior picked up where he left off last season, taking first in the 100 free with a time of 50.34 seconds, and beating teammate Cole Holien by more than three seconds.

Adam Smestad also took first in the 100-yard backstroke, where he beat out another Packer, Nick Huseby, by more than a second.

Adam Smestad even picked up a win with his younger brother, Alex, in the 200 freestyle relay. Holoien and Alan Repak also swam legs.

A sophomore, Alex Smestad took care of business in the sprints, and finished the 50 free in 23.52 seconds for the win. He also was on the 200 medley relay team alongside Doll, Huseby and Stephen Hulbert.

West Fargo's other first-place finish came from Holoien in the 200 free, where he finished in a time of 2:00.29 to edge North's Sean Rider by less than one tenth of a second.

Granted, it is still early in the season, and with the ACT tests underway, teams were not at full strength for Saturday's meet. But Dahl still likes what she sees in her team.

"Right now, it's going to take us three to four weeks to figure out our lineup. I honestly don' t really know how good our team is," she said. "But it's exciting every day. The kids are all really nice - they're just a nice group of polite kids."

Next up for the Packers is a 6 p.m. dual in Moorhead on Friday. Then on Saturday, West Fargo heads north for the Grand Forks Invitational, which begins at noon.

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