Madi Yonke knows how the final weeks of the girls swim season go. On Saturday, Nov. 9, she’ll compete in her sixth Eastern Dakota Conference tournament.
Yonke has been swimming for nine years, and six of those have been with the West Fargo Sheyenne Mustangs. She nabbed a spot on the squad in seventh grade, the year the Mustangs became a team.
The nearing EDC competition will be Yonke’s last. A senior, Yonke has seen her team develop and transform from a group that sat at the bottom of its conference to a team that clinched an East Region title.
“There's definitely a lot of change. We first started off at the very beginning, we were kind of disjointed a little bit,” Yonke said on her team’s early years. “We didn't have that history or those traditions built. So as the years progressed, we established those traditions and what we wanted in the team.”
And it’s certainly showing. The Mustangs girls swimming and diving team won EDC last year, the team’s first-ever conference title, and placed fourth at the state tournament, their best state finish in school history.
Yonke thinks the Mustangs have a good chance at grabbing back-to-back EDC titles and earning high finishes at state.
“The competition is tough, but our girls are pretty tough too,” she said.
Yonke is excited for this year’s East Region competition. She’s already qualified for state in all events except diving. The girls swim coach, Erich Richardson, has the girls swim each event at least once during the season, but Yonke’s main events are the 50 and 100 free.
“I love the last two weeks in the season of EDC and state, because the team just seems so much closer. Everyone is really there for the competition. Everyone wants to be there. They're all excited, the energy is there.”
This season has gone well for Yonke both individually and for her team. The Mustangs have had good competition times across the board.
“From winning EDC last year, I think a lot of our swimmers, including myself, have had a very positive outlook on this year, and truly knowing what we’re capable of,” she said. “Everyone's working very hard — everyone's very dedicated this year, which is great to see.”
Since the Mustangs’ inception six years ago, Yonke said her teammates have developed more of a team aspect.
“I wouldn't say (the first years) were difficult, but comparing this year to my seventh-grade year, I definitely feel that I'm enjoying these years more than the beginning,” Yonke said. “We definitely are more of a team and have each other's backs. We really just support each other.”
There was only one senior on the team in Sheyenne’s first year. Having just a few upperclassmen on the squad left spots for the underclassmen to become leaders. And Yonke, a two-year captain, was one who stepped up.
“Having an opportunity to take on those leadership roles at such a young age, I've definitely developed to become who I am now,” she said. “And from starting to be a leader so early, I'm able to encourage other underclassmen, saying, ‘You can be a leader too.’ ‘Even though you’re younger, you have the ability to lead.’ Which is really cool. Because no told me that from the beginning.”
Yonke said her six-year stint with the Mustangs had been great. There’s been bumps in the road, but seeing how the team has developed has made it all worth it.
“From starting at the very bottom, where if we beat a single team at a duel, that was amazing,” she said. “And now going to last year where we won EDC — when the Sheyenne Mustangs were announced as the EDC champions, all of our jaws just dropped. That was a huge moment. Just all of our work had paid off over the years.”
Yonke was the runner-up in the 50 free (25.65) at EDC last year. She also had top-five finishes at state in November in the 50 free, 400 free relay and 200 medley.
Yonke plans to swim in college. She had an official visit to the University of Mary in Bismarck, and has another official visit to Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall in November. She plans to make a decision after the SMSU visit.
The Mustangs will compete in the Nov. 9 East Region tournament at Hulbert Aquatics Center. And Yonke will soon cap her high school swim career the following week at state Nov. 15-16 in Bismarck.