West Fargo boys swimmers face new foe in title quest
It was generally thought that only 10-time defending state champion Minot would stand in the way of the Packer boys swimming team's first-ever state title hopes.
That was until last Friday and Saturday when Mandan took on West Fargo at L.E. Berger Elementary in a dual the Packers managed to win 102-82. West Fargo won the Thomas Manley Memorial Invitational at Fargo South the next day with 456.5 points; Mandan finished in second with 415 points.
It's a clear sign that Mandan could give the Packers some trouble come post season time. Every team in the state competed in the invitational, except Minot and Williston who did not make it due to inclement weather.
Packers coach Marsha Dahl said Minot is rebuilding this season and Mandan looks like a top contender.
"Mandan has beat Minot in multi-team meets already this year. (Minot) isn't ending up being the biggest worry anymore for the first time in such a rebuilding stage," said Dahl. "Mandan seems to have a solid team and is really competitive."
It's a fairly simple equation. Mandan beats Minot, which almost never happens, then the Packers beat Mandan with relative ease. It's an indication that the Packers are more than just among the state's elite teams - they could just be the best team in the entire state.
West Fargo will find out soon. The Packers travel to Minot next week to compete against the Magicians on Jan. 23, and again in an invite on Jan. 24.
Diving for points
The Packers are looking solid at diving behind junior Justin Gibson, sophomore Kevin Roberts and freshman Ryder Neva, who finished fifth, 10th and 11th, respectively, at the South Invite. Their improvement this season has Dahl thinking about possibly gaining some more state tournament points later on.
"We're hoping to get a couple more qualified, and I'm hoping they'll do OK at EDC," said the coach. "It'd really be nice to have more than one diver score at state. Mandan has a ton of divers, and Minot has a few."
Dahl on Doll...
When asked who is having an impressive year this early in the season, Dahl was quick to mention eighth-grader Ethan Doll, a swimmer she describes as flexible and focused. Doll took second in the 500 free at the South Invite.
"He's already having a good year. He's one of those athletes that kind of amazes you," said Dahl. "He's turning into that one you can really rely on to do a good job for you."
Just getting going
Despite being a member of the Packers' A relay teams and being a defending individual state champion, Packer junior Jacob Weible said he's still getting going this season. He won the 100 backstroke at the South Invite.
"I'm just pretty much out of shape right now," he said. "Some of my times are getting close to my in-shape times, and I feel like I'm improving a little bit."
As for Mandan being the new Minot, Weible said he's not yet buying into it.
"I think it's still Minot, and I don't think so much Mandan," he said. "Minot has been the powerhouse for the last 10 years."
Smith out again
Junior Cody Smith, a solid sprinter for the Packers his freshman year, is out of action for the time being with a shoulder injury. He sat out last season due to the same problem.
Dahl said the team will find out his status this week. She said his loss for any extended amount of time will be felt, despite the team's solid depth.