Continued growth expected following DHS state meet showing
After four Midgets qualified in 2015 and 2016, the Dickinson High boys swim and dive team has seen its state participants increase in successive seasons. Following seven qualifiers in 2017, eight made the trip to the Hulbert Aquatic Center in West Fargo this past weekend. Collecting a team score of 41, the boys finished 13th.
"They all had time cuts the first day in prelims and that's everything you want to see when you are going into your state tournament or finals of your season," Dickinson head coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think we did a lot of things right there. They are just consistently moving in the right direction."
Steven Bratten highlighted the Dickinson effort, earning a pair of top-20 finishes.
Despite managing a lingering back injury for the last two months, the sophomore finished the 100-yard backstroke in one minute and 58 seconds, taking 18th. In the 50-yard freestyle preliminaries, Brattem swam a time of 23.33 seconds. He backed that up the next day with time of 23.21 seconds, taking 14th in the event.
"Steven had a really good first day in the 50," Sullivan said. "The backstroke, it probably wasn't his day. He didn't end up swimming a PR in that, but he ended up swimming a PR in prelims for the 50 free. So that was nice to see. To see him have one good consistent race where he was about to cut and improve was very good."
Senior Garrett Billings saved some of his better performances for his last go-round at a state meet.
Billings placed 31st in the 50-yard freestyle with his time of 24.58 seconds. He also took 31st in the 100 freestyle, completing it in 55.12 seconds.
"I think he swam the fastest he ever has at states, I can't be anything but estatic for him," Sullivan said. "For Garrett, he's definitely a well-rounded freestyle swimmer, great sprinter and was able to hit those times at the end of year when we needed him most."
Competing in the 100 breaststroke, junior Isaac Ellerkamp finished 19th with a time of 1:07.12. Ellerkamp earned 23rd in the 100-yard butterfly after swimming the event in 59.89 seconds.
"I think Isaac has a lot of room to improve," Sullivan said. "I think this year he was a lot more serious and sees what he has to do to make consolations and finals next year."
In the one-meter diving finals, eighth-grader Dawson Wilson earned 10th in the event with a score of 325.90.
Wilson, along with fellow eighth-graders Mason Beck, Aiden Healy, and Casey Tuhy, competed in the 400 freestyle relay, placing 13th with a time of 4:05.55.
The youth-movement in the DHS swimming and diving program will be key components to the squad for years to come. Sullivan expects to have at least eight freshman in the program next year, bumping up his roster figures.
"I don't see why our [roster] numbers can't be in the low-20's next year," Sullivan said. "I think it's all about upside. Obviously, we have to work on a lot of technique and a lot of drill work to get them up to par, but we are doing the right things."
Helping mold the youthful Midgets is McKenzie Jeske, a former breaststroke and butterfly swimmer at the University of North Dakota. With Jeske on board and a couple of veteran swimmers in place, the younger swimmers will be groomed with a strong structure in place.
"With Isaac and Steven, they've had the tools and they have the experience at the state meet level and know what it takes to compete at that level," Sullivan said. "If we keep on working with those younger kids, we are going to accelerate that learning curve and shorten it up quite a bit."