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Dickinson High girls swimming and diving geared up for North Dakota state meet

The mere mention of the North Dakota girls state swimming and diving meet elicits two different reactions. For Dickinson High senior Leah Grove, it's bittersweet because it's her last one. For seventh-grader Kara Wanner, it's invigorating because...

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From top left clockwise, Dickinson High freshman Brianna Ashworth, junior Haley Rodakowski, senior Leah Grove, freshman Katie Jankowski, freshman Hannah Rathgeber, seventh-grader Jaydin Decker, seventh-grader Kara Wanner and eighth-grader Korie Riely swim in the West River Community Center pool Tuesday as they prepare for the North Dakota girls state swimming and diving meet today. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

The mere mention of the North Dakota girls state swimming and diving meet elicits two different reactions.
For Dickinson High senior Leah Grove, it’s bittersweet because it’s her last one. For seventh-grader Kara Wanner, it’s invigorating because - she hopes - it’s the first of many.
“It feels really special because I know a lot of seventh-graders on the team didn’t go last year, and on other teams too,” Wanner said. “I’m really excited. I hope I can go the rest of the years.”
Starting today at the Bismarck State College Aquatic and Wellness Center, Wanner will represent the Midgets in the 500-meter freestyle, where she has shown remarkable progress since the beginning of the season.
“I think (Wanner) started out the season at 6 minutes, 47 seconds in the 500 free,” Dickinson High head coach Jenna Wolf said. “And she’s got it down to 6 minutes, and that’s very impressive for a seventh-grader. So you can tell she’s working hard.”
The top 16 swimmers in each event and the top 20 divers from today’s competition will advance to the finals tomorrow.
Grove qualified for the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, but she admits the meet will be an emotional one.
“It’s exciting that it’s my senior year and state is this weekend,” she said, “but it’s sad at the same time that this is my last meet of the season and the last time I’ll be swimming in high school. It’s bittersweet, for sure.”
For seventh-grade diver Jaydin Decker and freshman swimmer Hannah Rathgeber, qualifying for state took up until just last week at the West Region meet in Williston, where the team finished sixth in the eight-team field.
Decker qualified for consideration with 252.20 points through 11 dives; the cutoff was 250 points. Rathgeber qualified in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:07.82; the cutoff mark for that event is 1:10.09.
“Hannah Rathgeber was off by a few seconds all season, but she finally cut three seconds to get that state-qualifying time,” Wolf said.
Joining them at state will be eighth-grader Korie Riely (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle); freshman Katie Jankowski (100 freestyle, 50 freestyle); junior Haley Rodakowski (100 butterfly); and freshman Brianna Ashworth (100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley).
This is Ashworth’s third visit to the state meet, but she said doesn’t feel a lot of pressure. She tries to soak in the moment.
“I just think of swimming as, ‘Have us much fun as I can,’” she said. “No matter who I’m going up against, I just try to have fun and do my best. State is fun. I like all the cheering, the feeling in the air.”
With it being the final competition of the season, everybody has the goal of shaving time or scoring more points, but the main consensus with the team is to not get too caught up in the pageantry of the event. They want to enjoy themselves while performing at the highest level.
“I love this group. We all push each other and we want to see everybody do their best,” Ashworth said. “You’re trying your best because it’s the end of the year, and you worked so hard to get to that point.”
For Grove, it’s been several years, and she’s thankful for the teammates around her that she gets to share the experience with.
“Especially with this group of girls, we’ve become so close throughout the season. And it being my senior year at state, I’m really excited,” she said. “It’ll be really fun.”

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