Mustangs swimming and diving wants to be among best in state
The West Fargo Sheyenne girls swimming and diving team will be young this year, but that's the part senior sprinter Johanna Jones is excited for most. She believes the Mustangs can prove itself as an elite program and wants to do what she can to make sure that it stays that way long after she graduates.
The Mustangs finished fifth at the North Dakota state meet last season after taking third at the East Region meet. However, the Mustangs graduated Andrea Smith who took fourth in the 100-meter butterfly, sixth in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 200 freestyle at state.
Still, the Mustangs return most of their 400 freestyle relay team that took third, 200 medley relay team that took sixth and their 200 freestyle relay team that took seventh at state. Jones, who was on those relay teams, also took third in the state 50 freestyle last season and wants to keep getting better and win a state title in that event. The Mustangs will continue their season at the West Fargo Invitational at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, at LE Berger Pool.
"While we might not be the fastest this year, we're definitely set up for future years," Jones said. "I'm excited to come back and see how much progress we've made considering we're still a young team."
Head coach Erich Richardson admitted the Mustangs graduated a good group of seniors. But he believes his group of 11 seventh graders and other young swimmers have prepared year round and are ready to swim at a high level for years to come.
"(The upperclassmen) know what's expected and do a really good job of letting the younger kids know what's expected of them," Richardson said. "So the leadership snowballs and every year everyone knows what's going on no matter what. The expectations are the same no matter if you're a senior or seventh grader."
Sophomore Madison Yonke swam on two of those top-eight relay teams at state last year but swims just about any stroke. She's been looking forward to the new, young swimmers and their sense of energy.
"It makes you look forward to the meets more," Yonke said of team energy. "It encourages the swimmers to go faster and do their best every time."
As the only senior, Jones said she's been prepared to be a leader for a group of young swimmers who she feels will be fast. She's been trying to push the team toward improvement with an energetic approach.
"It feels more intense than it did before," Jones said. "It's just about leading the way in attitude and effort."
Richardson believes the Mustangs could be among the top teams in the Eastern Dakota Conference again this season and possibly in the state. He said a big part of that goal will be getting the younger girls experience, which is why club practices and summer programs were vital.
"They're capable of going just as fast," Richardson said. "The seniors and captains that are coming up, they're instilling the traditions and values they want and expect from themselves and it builds on itself as they younger kids get older."
Richardson the team captains have a lofty vision for the program once those younger kids get older. But as for this year, Yonke believes the Mustangs could go far if they have the right mindset and stay positive for each other.
"The first years we were developing, but now I think we have an idea of what's going on and where we are as a team," Yonke said. "That helps us have a foundation."
Coach: Erich Richardson (fourth year)
Last season: third at East Region meet, fifth at state meet
Who's gone: Andrea Smith and Calista Miller
Key returners: Madison Yonke, So.; Paulina Bekkum, Jr.; Johanna Jones, Sr.; Breanna Lund, Fr.; Allison Sterling, Fr.; Abby Triplett, eighth; Greta Bellas, eighth