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WF boys swimming places second at state; Weible, Doll take individual titles

West Fargo's Nick Huseby swims in the 200 individual medley on Saturday, March 6, at the North Dakota state tournament in Mandan. Will Kincaid/Photographer1 / 2
West Fargo's Ryder Neva dives during the North Dakota state tournament Saturday, March 6, in Mandan. Photo/Will Kincaid2 / 2

The West Fargo boys swimming and diving team came into last weekend's state tournament in Mandan as defending champions looking for a repeat.

Minot High School wouldn't let that happen.

Utilizing their deep field of swimmers, the Magicians grabbed the title with 377.2 points, edging the Packers by nearly 15 points. For West Fargo coach Marsha Dahl, the second-place finish was bittersweet.

"Everyone comes (to the state tournament) prepared," she said. "Our goal was to win again, but we came up a little short. They really worked hard and swam and dove really tough on Saturday.

"We knew we had some catching up to do, and we did catch up. We did as well as we could."

It was a close meet. At one point, the Packers found themselves within three points of Minot. Then West Fargo slipped.

"We were weak in one event, with only one finalist," Dahl said. After that, West Fargo couldn't catch up.

Last year, the Packers won their first North Dakota state championship by snapping Minot's streak of 10 straight titles. This year, the Magicians took back the crown while only claiming one individual title and one relay title.

While West Fargo finished runner-up overall, it didn't go home empty-handed. The Packers grabbed three individual championships and took the title in the 400 freestyle relay, where they were seeded first.

Though it was a team effort, one swimmer stood out among the Packers: Jake Weible. The senior finished his high school career with a bang by grabbing two individual titles and taking part in the championship 400 freestyle relay team along with Adam Smestad, Jared Sykora and Daniel Hulbert.

Weible effectively defended his 100 backstroke title for the third straight year, finishing in 53.02 seconds and more than three-tenths of a second ahead of Bismarck's Ian Ballantyne. He also took home the championship in the 100 freestyle with a 47.92.

"Jake swam those events most of his career," Dahl said. "It was a bonus to take the title in the 100 free because he's never won that title before. That was nice."

The Packers' other individual title came from freshman Ethan Doll in the 500 freestyle. Doll finished in 4:56.09 to take his second consecutive title in the event. After effectively defending his crown so early in his career, Doll will have a burden to bear before finally graduating.

"He loves that event, and he swims it so well," Dahl said. "(Defending it) would be something he'll be looking forward to in the future."

Other top finishers

Even though they took home several titles, the Packers were really hoping to defend their 200 medley relay championship from last year, Dahl said. Minot edged West Fargo and finished one tenth of a second ahead.

"We just got out-touched," Dahl said. "Minot had a good relay, but it was close."

The whole meet was close, she said.

"It was exciting. There were a lot of surprises," Dahl said. "You know, people come ready to swim tough, it was just exciting. We did the best we could and came up a little short, but that's kind of the way it goes."

For their efforts, Doll, Hulbert, Sykora, Weible and Austin Keller were named to the All-State first team. Smestad made the All-State second team.

With another boys swimming season coming to a close, the Packers will be losing four seniors, including standouts Sykora and Weible. Even so, Dahl isn't worried about her team's future.

"Everybody goes through this, we're losing four seniors and three were on two relays and scored points for us, but that happens," she said. "Other teams go through that, too. We just keep trying to rebuild. We still have a good nucleus of sophomores and juniors. ... We just have to hope we keep having young kids coming in to fill spots.

"We've been lucky in past years where we haven't lost that many, and other teams have. It'll be alright, though. You always look forward to the next season."