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DHS boys swimming and diving team sees influx of younger members

Luckily for some of Dickinson High's younger swimmers, Jacob Ellerkamp was just like them once. And right now, Ellerkamp is serving as a model of what this year's group of seventh-grade swimmers can become. "I remember once upon a time being a fo...

Seventh-grader Aiden Healy competes for the Dickinson High boys swimming and diving team in the 100-meter breaststroke on Dec. 10 at the West River Community Center. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)
Seventh-grader Aiden Healy competes for the Dickinson High boys swimming and diving team in the 100-meter breaststroke on Dec. 10 at the West River Community Center. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)

Luckily for some of Dickinson High's younger swimmers, Jacob Ellerkamp was just like them once.

And right now, Ellerkamp is serving as a model of what this year's group of seventh-grade swimmers can become.

"I remember once upon a time being a four-foot-tall seventh-grader and lining up against these six-foot-fall seniors that swim 20 seconds faster than I do, and it's intimidating," said Ellerkamp, now a senior. "You're thinking, 'No way I can beat that guy,' and sometimes that's true, sometimes it's not, but a lot of it is in your head. I'm just telling them, 'Swim the best that you can do,' and we work on it from there."

The Dickinson High boys swimming and diving team has the luxury of numbers this season - well, compared to last year, anyway.

"It's a great problem to have as a coach," said head coach Mike Sullivan. "Through our second showing, those younger kids are able to compete with comparable age groups from the other teams - some of the better teams in the state, Minot and Century."

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The Midgets are now able to deploy two teams in most relay events and have more swimmers in the opens.

So far, the early returns are promising.

"They're doing fantastic overall. They just came from club swimming, where it's a little less competitive in that age group, but they're dropping a lot of time," Ellerkamp said.

Through one meet and one dual, the Midgets have seen encouraging results so far from Taven Wilson, Mason Beck, Dawson Wilson, Aiden Healy, Kyle Clark, Casey Thuey, Trenton Irwin and Jackson Metcalf - all of whom are seventh-graders with varying levels of swimming experience.

That's where the veterans of the team come in: Jacob Ellerkamp, sophomore Isaac Ellerkamp and freshman Steven Bratten all qualified for state last year, and the younger swimmers are trying to glean all they can from that group.

"I'm trying to take their endurance and their pride in what they do," Healy said.

The Midgets don't get back in the water until the first week of January, so the next few weeks of training will be critical.

"We're getting those newer kids more comfortable in the water. They had the first meet, so they know how that went, but they're still trying to get in the swing of things," Sullivan said. "We're running them through the ins and outs of all the strokes - 'Move your body a little more this way to get a better pull,' or 'Kick all the way through your turns.' It's all the stuff you practice in practice, but especially the younger guys, they get excited (at meets) and they forget."

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Those nerves are natural but not impossible to overcome. The adjustment to varsity swimming - and the reality of it - is different for everybody. At the very least, it's been exciting.

"When I was in club swimming, I thought that was the real-deal swim team," said Healy, with a laugh. "Then I realized, 'Woah, varsity gets to skip school and go on bus rides and dye their hair and all this crazy stuff.' It's definitely a lot of fun."

Still, varsity presents new opportunities and new challenges. So far, that appears to be embraced as much as the bus rides by a group that is still young and eager to learn.

"In club swimming, I was getting better and better and I kind of stopped (improving) because I wasn't challenging myself," said Healy, using his hands to pantomime a steady progress before reaching a plateau.

Healy paused, raised a hand above his head and continued, "And in high school, it's totally upped the bar, and it's fun to see how much better I'll be next year."

Related Topics: PREP SPORTS
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