The 2018-19 swimming and diving season has nearly reached its conclusion, and after months of hard work, the Dickinson High boys swimming and diving team is ready to let loose on the biggest stage.
With a squad of 14 kids, the Midgets will be represented by half of its roster at the state boys swimming and diving meet beginning on Friday, March 1, from the Bismarck State College Aquatic and Wellness Center.
"The boys are definitely starting to get excited. As my college coach used to say, they are starting to get squirrelly," Dickinson head coach McKenzie Steckler said this week during practice. "They're getting more rest and are starting to take advantage of how much energy they're saving. Honestly, they're so happy and really fun to be around, so I think state will be a good time and hopefully, they keep their high spirits."
At their peak, the Midgets swam 7,000 yards each day during practice at the midway point of the season. The team's spirits are high partially because of a lighter workload, as Steckler cut that down to 2,500 yards during practice.
In her first season as head coach and a team of mostly freshman, seventh- and eighth-graders at her disposal, Steckler has produced encouraging results. Three school records have fallen, with freshman Dawson Wilson owning program highs in the six and 11 1-meter dives, while sophomore co-captain Taven Wilson has Dickinson's fastest time in the 500-yard freestyle.
"I am beyond happy with what they've done this year," Steckler said. "Half the team is going to state, and being so young, we'll have them for the next three years. On top of that, two of them made the All-Conference (team) and overall, they have already broken three school records this year, so it's exciting to see such young kids put in such hard work and dedication and honestly be able to compete with any of the top seniors in the state."
Dawson Wilson is a contender to place in the 1-meter dive. He will also compete in the 100 butterfly, while Taven Wilson has qualified for the 200 and 500 free, the latter alongside Midgets freshman Casey Tuhy.
Someone who has a great shot at breaking records is Mason Beck, who is seeded 10th in the 100 freestyle with a mark of 52.26 seconds, and ninth in the 50 freestyle, clocking in at 23.45. After spending time as a diver in previous years, the freshman is looking to knock off more than a second off his time in the 100 free, and four-tenths of a second of his best time in the 50 free, which he set just one week earlier at the West Region Championships.
"I wasn't expecting to do as well as I am. I enjoy diving, but I'm starting to enjoy swimming more than I do diving," Beck said. "I'm excited and I'm nervous, but I'm more excited. I just want to see how well I can do and how much I can improve."
In his final state meet, Isaac Ellerkamp would like to be racing during day two. At state in 2018, the senior finished the 100 breaststroke in 19th and 23rd in the 100 butterfly. Qualifying with a time of one minute, 7.78 seconds, he will try his luck again in the breaststroke while also competing in the 200 individual medley.
"I'd really like to place in the top 16 this year, especially since I really didn't do as well last year, but this year is my last year and I'd really like to make top-16," Ellerkamp said. "That adrenaline is still building up in me. I know it's going to be one last ride and I'm excited for it."
Dickinson is coming off a sixth-place finish at WDA. As the Midgets hit the final stretch of another campaign, Steckler hopes her swimmers can give it everything they got.
"I want them to enjoy every moment. I want them to swim every swim like it's their last, especially Isaac," Steckler said. "It is their last if they don't make it back into the finals; it is the end of their season. I don't want them to hold anything back. Even if they have another event, I want them to focus on what they are currently doing and get it their all. ... I want them to finish the race and just have a smile on their face, and be like 'You know what, I tried as hard as I could, and no matter what the outcome is I'll be happy with it.'"