Minot High swimming and diving wins state championship

WEST FARGO –Achieving what others believe to be impossible is a goal the Minot High School swimming and diving team accomplished Saturday. Minot High did not take first in a single event, but managed to snag the state championship Saturday at the Hulbert Aquatic Center in West Fargo.

All season, Minot High has been able to pull out wins merely by the amount of scoring bodies it had in the water. The state meet was no different, as Minot High had enough numbers to surpass Bismarck Century as the state champions by only 11 points. This is the first state championship for the swimming and diving Magicians since their win in 2011.

Minot High won with 344 points, followed by Bismarck Century with 333, Mandan with 227, Fargo South with 214, West Fargo Sheyenne with 193, Grand Forks with 171, Fargo North with 159, Williston with 138 and West Fargo with 133.

Minot High head coach Jake Solper said that it came down to the last event for the Magi, as they were leading after 11 events with the 400-yard freestyle relay left to go.

“The meet was tight enough to where if one of our guys was called for an early start on the relay, we would’ve been out of it, but we really didn’t know until the final scores were posted,” he said.

As the Century swimming and diving dynasty has come to a close, it’s time to appreciate the athletes that made this unpredictable win possible.

The medley relay team placed second for the Magicians, beginning the meet on a strong note with a 1 minute, 41.63 seconds finish. The relay was comprised of Easton Evanoff with the backstroke, Griffin Schaeffer with breast, William Walker-Rozo with fly and Steve Novak finishing with freestyle.

Both the 200 and 400-yard freestyle relays finished fourth for the Magicians, still putting them in a great position to score at the end of the meet.

Senior Charlie Wentz placed fifth in the 200-yard freestyle with a 1:49.89. Fellow teammates Peyton Huss and Connor Templeton placed 14th and 15th with a 1:52.27 and a 1:53.21.

Walker-Rozo, a sophomore for Minot High, placed third in the individual medley with a 2:02.15, followed by freshman Dominic Yoder in fifth at 2:09.08 and sophomore Jack Wolsky in sixth at 2:03.75. Senior Patrick Malnaa rounded out the IM with a 2:08.67, finishing 14th.

Junior Steve Novak led the Magi in the 50-yard free with a 22.22, with senior Gannon Miller in ninth at 22.24 and sophomore Zac Spaulding in 12th with 22.91.

“There isn’t one event that really put us out on top, but if I had to pick one, it was our divers that really put us out on top,” Solper said. “We were only projected to score seven points in diving, but we ended up scoring 24 points.”

Minot High had two divers in the finals on Saturday, sophomores Layton King and Reece Pederson. Pederson finished sixth with a final score of 336.65, while King finished eighth with 332.00. Of course, the swimmers helped put the team in the position to make the win possible, but the unexpected points from the divers is what ultimately gave the Magicians the edge.

The Magicians had two flyers compete on Saturday. Huss finished seventh with a 55:17, while fellow teammate Griffin Schaeffer, a sophomore, finished 13th with a 57.61.

Miller, Novak, Spaulding and Evanoff all participated in the 100-yard freestyle for Minot. Miller finished ninth with a 49.33, followed by Novak at 11th with a 50.68, Spaulding at 12th with a 50.81 and Evanoff at 13th with 50.84.

Walker-Rozo was the only Minot swimmer in the 500-yard freestyle, finishing seventh with a 5:02.07.

Schaeffer took third in the breaststroke with a 1:01.84, followed closely in fourth by Wolsky with a 1:02.62. Malnaa finished 10th with a final time of 1:03.81.

Evanoff has often been the face of the backstroke effort by Minot, but freshman Yoder shocked everyone with a third place finish in the event Saturday.

“We didn’t have that on our radar,” Solper said of Yoder’s big performances Saturday. “We’re really proud of the effort he put forth this weekend. It was surprising for a freshman to mix it up with the upperclassman at the state meet.”

Yoder finished at a 55.32, followed by Evanoff in fifth at 56.33 and Wentz in seventh at 57.90.

Solper noted that this year was very unique for the Magician’s swim and dive program. They relied on students from every class and athletes in each event to earn the big win.

“This is one of the greatest team wins that I’ve seen in my coaching tenure,” a bewildered Solper said after the meet. “It was all twelve events and all the athletes in those events that made the title possible.”

Minot High earned multiple awards at the end of the state meet recognizing athletes that excelled this year. Novak was selected for the All-State first team, while Evanoff, Miller, Schaeffer, Spaulding, Walker-Rozo and Yoder were all selected second team.

Solper took home coach of the year, rounding out the awards for the Magicians.