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Olympic gold medalist Ledecky has plenty of North Dakota connections

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--Katie Ledecky touched the wall at the end of the 400 freestyle. She looked up and saw her world-record time. She fist-pumped. She swam a couple of feet back into the pool.

Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Katie Ledecky (USA) celebrates after winning the women's 400m freestyle final in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Katie Ledecky (USA) celebrates after winning the women's 400m freestyle final in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-Katie Ledecky touched the wall at the end of the 400 freestyle. She looked up and saw her world-record time. She fist-pumped. She swam a couple of feet back into the pool.
Then, the second-place finisher finally completed the race.
When Ledecky dominated the 400 freestyle Sunday night, Aug. 7, to earn an Olympic gold medal, there was plenty of celebrating in North Dakota.
While her family lives in the Washington, D.C., area, they have deep connections to the University of North Dakota and the state of North Dakota, who have been following her quick ascent to the top of Olympic swimming. The 400 gold was her second overall. She won her first in 2012. The 19-year old hopes to add two more in the 200 and 800 freestyles, too.
Ledecky has a large fan base in Williston, where her grandparents-Dr. Edward J. (Bud) Hagan and Kathleen Hagan-raised their family. They had a viewing party at the Williston Area Recreation Center, which opened two years ago. Ledecky swam the first lap in the pool.
Ledecky also has a fan base in Grand Forks, where several of her relatives attended college. Her grandfather, Bud, graduated from the University of North Dakota's medical school. So did her uncle, Mike, who is now an internist in Billings, Mont. Katie's cousin, Shannon Hagan Chamberlain, is a first-year med student at UND. She started class Monday.
Another aunt, Katie Keogh, earned an undergraduate degree and a master's in physical therapy from UND.
Gay Williamson, a Grand Forks resident who coached Katie's mother, Mary Gen, and her six siblings in swimming in Williston during the 1960s, said it has been a thrill to watch Katie's rise to the top of the swimming world.
"It's still hard for me to get my head around it," Williamson said of Ledecky's success. "It's a great North Dakota story about a great family."
Williamson attended the Olympic Trials in Omaha with Katie's family last month. She did the same in 2012, when Katie was just 15 years old.
"It's so different this time around," Williamson said. "Last time was so unexpected. This time has been so fun because you know from the last three years what she's capable of. Last night, when she won the 400 and beat everyone by that much, you kind of go, 'Oh my goodness, how much faster can she go?'"
Williamson has been watching the Olympics at home in Grand Forks.
"Oh man, it has just been the best," she said. "I was jumping up and down last night. It was so much fun. But when I saw they had a viewing party at the ARC, I wished we were in Williston."

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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