By Tyler Shoberg
The old adage that all good things must come to an end rang true Saturday for the West Fargo girls swimming and diving team.
But instead of hanging their heads after being edged by two points and missing out on a fourth straight East Region championships, the Packers stayed positive.
"Our kids really handled taking that second place well. They showed a lot of poise and grace," Packers head coach Marsha Dahl said.
Fargo North took the team title after chipping away at West Fargo's lead - of which at one time was 33 points - and finishing with 509 points. The Packers managed 507 for themselves; no small task, according to Dahl.
"To have one team get 500 points is great, but to have two teams do it is just amazing," she said.
West Fargo had Top 3 finishers in every event save diving and the 500 freestyle. The Packers nearly swept the relays, too, except for a runner-up finish to the Spartans in the 400 that caught West Fargo by surprise.
"We weren't banking on them beating our last relay," Dahl said.
The Packers actually had a seed time more than a second faster than North. But in the race, the Spartans set and Eastern Dakota Conference record at 3 minutes, 41.02 seconds. West Fargo took runner-up by nearly matching their seed time, finishing in 3:43.43.
The placing garnered 34 points for West Fargo, but with six points separating first- and second-place teams, North had just enough points to take over West Fargo's four-point lead for the title.
"North has a really solid team," Dahl said. "Plus, our teams like each other, which makes the sting a little easier."
Also helping ease the sting were several individual and relay titles garnered by West Fargo.
Danica Dutt earned her fourth straight All-Conference honor after placing first in both the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, and swimming a leg with the winning 200 medley relay team alongside Taylor Laufenberg, Paige Weisz and Aubrey Wentz. The sophomore also swam with the 400 freestyle relay team, which placed second behind the Spartans.
In the 50 free, Dutt finished in 25 seconds flat to beat second-place Laura Schott of Fargo South by more than 3/4 of a second. Hannah Reis, Mykin Gunning, Brianna Rostvedt and Alexa Olson took sixth-eighth place for West Fargo.
Another individual title came from Hallie Peterson, who swam to a Davies pool record 55.77 seconds in the 100 free. The sophomore, who earned her first All-EDC honor, also swam the opening leg with the winning 200 freestyle relay team, alongside teammates Wentz, Alexa Olson and Alyssa Olson.
Peterson took third place in the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 2:01.48 to lead West Fargo's five swimmers in the event.
Weisz picked up her second All-Conference honor in three years for the Packers. The senior swam in the aforementioned relay events, but also did well individually. Her highest placing was in the 100-yard breaststroke where she finished second in 1:09.38. Fargo North's Ellie Roche took the title, swimming to a pool-record 1:08.31.
Weisz also placed third in the 200 individual medley, getting out-touched by runner-up and teammate Wentz who swam it in 2:20.49.
The Packers' last Top 3 finish was by Rachel Kranda, who took third in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:05.41.
With a solid showing at their conference meet, the Packers now must prepare for the North Dakota State Tournament, which runs Friday-Saturday at the University of North Dakota's Hyslop Sports Center in Grand Forks.
And while they would love to bring a trophy home, the Packers already have met one of their big goals.
"Our goal has always been to have four qualifiers in every event, and we have four qualifiers, and four participants in every (swimming) event for the first time," Dahl said.
In all, West Fargo qualified 25 swimmers for state, she said, meaning the team has strength in both talent and numbers.
Still, they'll be going up against some strong competition. Not only will they have to figure out how to top North, which has edged them twice now in two straight meets, but they'll be going up against some strong West Region opponents.
"I think the team to beat is going to be Bismarck Century. We beat them in big meets twice this year, but that means nothing at state," Dahl said.
But no matter what the result from this weekend, West Fargo just wants to go out on a positive note.
"I know we want to come home with a trophy, but I'm not going to go in there and think anything different. I just want the kids to swim fast, dive awesome and have a fun time doing it," Dahl said.
Tyler Shoberg is Sports Editor of the Pioneer, and can be reached at 701-451-5717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.