Minot ends Century's reign on North Dakota state swimming title
WEST FARGO—A North Dakota swimming dynasty came to an end on Saturday afternoon, March 3. Bismarck Century, after winning five straight North Dakota State Swimming & Diving Meet boys championships, finally met its match.
Minot claimed the state title at the Hulbert Aquatic Center without winning an individual event.
"You talk about depth, that is a true team effort," said Minot head coach Jake Solper. "The guys responded."
Minot finished with 344 points to Century's 333. Mandan was third with 227 and Fargo South fourth with 214. The title went down to the last event—and it required Minot to hold its own in the 400 freestyle relay.
The Magicians led Century by 13 points, meaning if the Patriots won the event Minot couldn't finish sixth or lower.
"I didn't doubt my guys but I didn't doubt Century's either," Solper said. "Century has a history of claiming the title and we knew they were motivated. We needed our guys to maintain their position."
Century finished third in the event and Minot fourth, with the final touch being greeted by a state-title reaction by the Magician swimmers.
"The state swimming and diving is potentially as exciting or more exciting than any other state championship," Solper said. "We've seen ties. We've seen wins by two or four points and we knew this was going to be tight."
Century served notice early it wasn't going away anytime soon winning the first two events: the 200-yard medley relay and sophomore Chris Birnbaum in the 200 freestyle. The Patriots kept it rolling in the freestyle when Adam Nodland edged South's Luke Bergstrom by two-tenths of a second.
Still, first-place finishes didn't translate to a team lead. At that point, Minot held a two-point advantage with eight events to go. They went back and forth. A 1-3-8 finish worth 48 team points in the 100 butterfly put the Patriots up by 22 points.
One event later, Minot was up by two again. With three events to go, the Century lead was just 14 points. With two to go, the lead was four, and that's when Minot went up by 13 heading into the last event.
In a meet where there are so many points on the line in one event, it was setting up to be a photo finish.
The East Region did get two individual champions in West Fargo Sheyenne's Zack Bueling and Wahpeton's Eric Anderson. Bueling won the 100 backstroke making good of his top preliminary qualifying time from Friday. It was a season where he broke 1 minute for the first time, winning Saturday with a time of 52.99 seconds.
"It's kind of a shock that the season is over," said Bueling, a senior. "I still feel like I have to go to practice on Monday."
Saturday's performance was a personal record for him.
"I just felt good," he said.
Anderson, a freshman, looked anything but a freshman in the 100 freestyle who has three more years ahead of him.
"Just have to get out there with the big boys and tough out the races," he said.
Anderson came from behind like a veteran, nipping Fargo North's Payton Gabel and Bergstrom at the finish.
"I had to scramble," Anderson said. "I was behind until about the last 12 yards. It was nerve wracking."