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Midgets bringing young, confident group to state meet

When the state swimming and diving meet begins today in Bismarck, Dickinson High intends to show off its youth. The Midgets qualified eight individuals for state, but only one is a senior. All other members aren't even juniors yet and have varyin...

Dickinson High sophomore Hannah Rathgeber swims the butterfly in the Midgets 200-meter medley relay in a dual against Jamestown on Oct. 28 at the West River Community Center. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson High sophomore Hannah Rathgeber swims the butterfly in the Midgets 200-meter medley relay in a dual against Jamestown on Oct. 28 at the West River Community Center. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)

When the state swimming and diving meet begins today in Bismarck, Dickinson High intends to show off its youth.

The Midgets qualified eight individuals for state, but only one is a senior. All other members aren't even juniors yet and have varying levels of swimming experience, but that hasn't stopped Dickinson from showing that age is just a number.

"I'm really impressed by them," said Haley Rodakowski, the lone senior. "Sydne (Beld), especially. She's just a sophomore and it's her first year in high school swimming and she qualified her first year ever. They're really competitive. They push me. I'm really impressed and really proud of them."

The meet will be held at the Bismarck State College Aquatic and Wellness Center and will conclude Saturday.

Rodakowski is making her third straight appearance at state, where she'll swim the 50- and 100-meter freestyle races.

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Joining her at state will be eighth-graders Kara Wanner (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle) and Jaydin Decker (diving); freshman Korie Riely (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle); and sophomores Brianna Ashworth (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke), Beld (500 freestyle), Katie Jankowski (100 backstroke, 100 freestyle) and Hannah Rathgeber (100 butterfly, 200 freestyle).

"With all the technique stuff and workouts we've done during the season, you can see the progression of the younger group," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "Taking a younger group to state, one senior and a bunch of sophomores, in that aspect, we're a young group, but there's lots of potential."

Helping their cause, several members of the group have already made an appearance at the state meet; Ashworth, Jankowski, Rathgeber, Decker, Riely and Wanner all qualified last season, and they enter the 2016 meet with more of an idea of what to expect.

"I feel like I understand it a lot more, and you feel more emotionally strong about it," Wanner said. "(My events) are going to be really hard for me because I'm so much younger than all the other people swimming, but I think if I try really hard, I can make it in the top 16 in the 100 free."

Decker, too, feels she has become a more polished diver. With another full year of diving and a summer of diving camps to her name, she feels more in control.

"This year, I think I've improved a lot," she said. "Last year was a learning curve for me. This year I definitely feel more confident in my technique and the proper way to do things."

Ashworth and departed senior Leah Grove were the only individuals from Dickinson to swim on the second day of the state meet last season. This year, making the second day and making the top 16 to earn points for the team seems like a realistic goal.

"Most girls just start with the goal of state, but the top 16 is what everybody tries to accomplish," Rodakowski said. "It's really difficult and it's really a big deal if you make it."

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Sullivan added: "I would hope we have two or three girls make it in multiple events, and I think that's doable. We're seeded well, and I think the girls have put in the work and they can make it."

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