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Swimmer Dutt signs with UND

West Fargo High School senior swimmer Danica Dutt signed with the University of North Dakota. Carrie Snyder

Senior Danica Dutt has been a staple on the West Fargo swim team for several years, but she took her first step toward the next level on Thursday morning, signing a letter of intent to swim for the University of North Dakota.

“It is a good distance from home, and the team is very welcoming,” Dutt said. “I would be in the middle there, so I will have people to push me, and I can push others. I can see myself reaching my goals with them.”

Dutt has been swimming since the age of 6. While she tried several sports growing up, she knew “from the get-go” that swimming was the one for her. By seventh grade, she was an important piece of the Packers’ varsity team.

“At the beginning, I just swam to be a part of something,” Dutt said. “In the last few years here, I realized that I could have a future in it.”

Now, she will become UND’s go-to person for the 100 butterfly — an event in which she is a four-time individual state champion.

She also finished first this past fall as part of the state champion 400 freestyle relay team and second in the 200 individual medley, all while serving as a role model to the younger swimmers.

“She really instilled in the team a sense of what it means to be an athlete, and she has left a great impression on her teammates,” Packers head coach Sally Sautner said. “I really hope they are striving to fill that role.”

Sautner only coached Dutt for her senior season, and what immediately stood out to her about Dutt was that, despite her talent level, she focused on being a part of the team.

“A lot of times, those outstanding athletes separate themselves and focus on their own thing,” Sautner said. “She really stayed in the moment with her teammates.”

The coaching staff of her club team, the Moorhead Marlins, noticed the same thing, coupled with a fierce dedication to improve herself.

“She really fit into that group dynamic and worked really hard,” Anderson said. “She has a strong work ethic, and a lot of commitment and dedication to her goals and to the program.”

In fact, her most cherished memories with the team have nothing to do with personal best times or accolades, but rather the shared success of her and her teammates.

“The senior girls are really good friends of mine, so having that awesome state meet with them and things like that will be some really good memories for me,” Dutt said.

Dutt knows she will have to work harder — both academically and athletically — this fall, but her coaches believe she has the work ethic and determination to persevere and bring a positive presence to UND’s campus.

“I think she knows there are going to be some expectations of her, and she is on the right path in terms of preparing for what will probably be some of the hardest work of her career,” Anderson said. “She will bring energy and a good, fun spirit to the team.”

In her first year at UND, Dutt simply hopes to increase her speed in the water and make the conference meet. Her long-term goals, however, include qualifying for the Olympic trials.

“She has all the potential and the skill set needed to do those things,” Sautner said. “I hope to see her go above and beyond those goals.”