Could the West Fargo girls swimming and diving team do it? Could they successfully defend their Eastern Dakota Conference title for yet another year?
The answer: most definitely.
The Packers finished first at last Saturday's East Region meet in West Fargo with a total of 289 points, beating out second-place Fargo North by more than 18 points. Grand Forks Red River, Fargo South, Grand Forks Central, Fargo Shanley and Wahpeton rounded out the standings.
Danica Dutt paced the Packers with her aquatic expertise. Though only a freshman, Dutt is no stranger to pressure. On Saturday, she earned her third straight All-Conference honor for her meet performance, which included a first-place finish in the 100 butterfly, and the winning leg with West Fargo's first-place 400 freestyle relay team.
Dutt, who also earned First-Team All-State honors last year as an eighth-grader, slapped the wall with a winning time of 59.29 seconds in the 100 fly. In the 400 free relay, Dutt was last in line behind teammates Samantha Gunning, Alyssa Olson and Rachel Kranda.
Dutt took second in the 50 free, getting edged by less than a tenth of a second by Red River's Mirna Kojic, who finished in 25.19 seconds. Kojic was named EDC Senior Athlete of the Year after pacing the Roughriders with two individual titles.
Gunning, Kranda and Olson also earned All-Conference honors for the Packers. Gunning, the lone senior in West Fargo's ranks, took fourth in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:03.22. Teammate Hallie Peterson finished a second back in fifth place.
Gunning also swam a leg in the fourth-place 200 medley relay team, along with Kranda, Aubrey Wentz and Kenna Jo Sand.
Wentz had several top times, including third-place finishes in the 200 individual medley (Gunning took fifth with a time of 2:22.89) and 100 breaststroke. She also was the lead leg in the second-place 200 freestyle relay team, while Alexa Olson, Alyssa Olson and Dutt rounded out the squad.
Besides being a stable in relay teams, Kranda also did well in individual competition with two top finishes. The junior placed fifth in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:06.97, and had a sixth-place finish in the 500 free at 5:30.37.
Another Packer who picked up some critical points for her team was Hannah Reis. The freshman placed fifth in the 50 free with a time of 26.46 seconds, and also took fifth in the 100 free, edging out teammate Olson by less than three tenths of a second.
One of the youngest Packers to take top honors was seventh-grader Peterson, who placed sixth in the 200 free with a time of 2:04.92, and was fifth right behind Gunning in the 100 fly.
Next up for the Packers will be the state tournament. This year, the two-day event takes place in Mandan, N.D., and kicks off Friday. Last year, West Fargo placed sixth overall at the event.