Six seniors on the Dickinson High swim and dive team highlight a roster of 20 girls set to begin its season on Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Williston Invite.
Juxtaposed to 2017 where Madison Schmidt, who was out of action due to an injury, entered the year as the only upperclassmen dawning DHS colors, state qualifiers Brianna Ashworth and Hannah Rathgeber are joined by Kayla Paluck, Hillary Moberg and team captains Sydne Beld and Gracie Morel as seniors who will provide the Midgets with direction.
"We have six total seniors this year, a big group that is kind of the core of our team this year," DHS head coach Jenna Wolf said. "A lot of them have been high school swimmers since they were seventh graders. They've had a lot of time in the pool."
The Midgets finished 13th at the Girls' State Swimming and Diving meet last senior. Ashworth was the lone Dickinson swimmer to qualify for the finals in an event, capturing seventh in the 200 yard individual medley.
Ten Midgets overall took part in the state festivities last fall. Wolf is aiming to increase that figure to more than three-quarters of the roster.
"I would say that last season was a success, but we are looking for a little bit more this year," Wolf said. "We only had one senior graduate last year, so the bulk of our team is still there, but we are hoping to get a few more girls qualified this year."
Other state-qualifiers back in 2018 include eighth-grader Charley Rathgeber, freshmen Reilly Meyer, sophomores Kara Wanner and Hailey Rathgeber, and junior Korie Riely, who will serve as the squad's third team captain.
"Most of the responsibility comes with being a leader," Riely said. "Our team is relatively young. We have a lot of new girls, not even just young ones; we have a lot of girls coming in that are even as old as I am. So I basically want to make them feel welcomed and a part of the team, and of course to get them motivated for races and practice."
One of the new, young additions to the team is eighth-grader Teghan Hoff. Hoff played a key role in helping the Dickinson gymnastics team win its third consecutive state title last winter.
Forgoing the preseason activity on the mat, she will be one of four divers for the Midgets.
"I started in January of last year and it was something I really wanted to do. That wasn't going to work with gymnastics preseason, so I just wanted to change it up a little bit and see if I like diving." Hoff said. "[I like] being here with great people and learning how to swim, I've never swam before, so this is something new and fun."
As for other youthful contributors, Wolf notes that seventh-grader Mara Ellerkamp, sister of DHS graduate Jacob Ellerkamp and current Midgets senior Isaac Ellerkamp, may be one of the younger swimmers to look out for, showing potential in the freestyle events.
Before fall practice got underway, the team prepared for the upcoming season by taking part in Crossfit. The rigorous training has helped the team work on its core, grit and resolve.
"That has helped us a lot, because it brings weights and intensity together, which is basically what we do in the pool." Riely said. "We obviously are not running, but we have weight pushing against us in the pool. And so getting those weights in with the same level intensity as if we were swimming, that will definitely help is a lot. It has also helped us with mental toughness, because the workouts we do at crossfit definitely aren't easy and can't be taken lightly. ... We'll be able to push through the harder practices and push through the harder races at meets."