Title defense

Defending state champion Magicians hit the pool

Ashton Gerard/MDN Minot High School's Peyton Huss swims the butterfly during a high school swim meet last season at Magic City Campus.

After winning the NDHSAA State Championship last season, the Minot High School boys swimming and diving team is eager to begin another season and pick up where they left off with many new faces in the pool.

The Magicians find themselves in a unique situation with 27 returning athletes and 27 athletes new to the program.

“It’s pretty uncommon for our team to have a 50 percent turnover rate, but it also brings in kind of a different energy, which is neat,” MHS head coach Jake Solper said. “We didn’t really know how things were going to go right at the get-go, but I think our senior leadership has really welcomed all the new guys to the team.”

The Magi have nine seniors on the team, six of them returning from previous seasons and three newcomers.

Of the 27 new athletes, six are from the junior class and two are from the sophomore class. Solper explained that it’s rare to get that many new athletes from 10th grade and up.

“I think a lot of that is a credit to the kinds of guys we’ve had on our team over the years,” he said. “They end up finding some of the best of the best; the guys with really great personalities maybe from some other sports teams that they encourage to come and join our team.”

The new upperclassmen have brought positive attitudes and have enhanced the existing culture.

“It’s actually been really cool,” junior Griffin Schaeffer said about the team dynamic this year. “As an upperclassman, it’s nice to interact with new people, especially the ones that have never (swam) before.”

Senior captain Peyton Huss added: “Everyone’s learning, so we’re doing a lot of pure coaching and helping everyone out to get our teammates to be the best they can be.”

Kicking off the season, the Magi hosted an Intrasquad Meet at the Magic City Campus to break in the pool for competition and gave the new swimmers a practice run of what an actual high school meet will look like.

“It went incredibly well,” Solper said. “It was a lot of fun to see our veterans be so successful this early in the season.”

Many returning swimmers spent their offseason either weight training, in the pool or doing both. It shows to Solper and the rest of the coaching staff how motivated the team is to be successful.

A lot of the newcomers showed promise at the Intrasquad Meet as well. Swimmers that have barely swam before were already showing signs of improvement just from the beginning of practices.

It was also a chance for the underclassmen coming in to show what they can bring to the table.

Returning junior William Walker-Rozo led the Magicians in the 200-yard freestyle at the Intrasquad with a final time of 1:52.99 and the 500 freestyle with a 5:17.76.

Underclassman stand-out Dominic Yoder, who exceeded expectations last season with a third place finish in backstroke at the state meet, led the team at the individual medley with a 2:07.29 followed closely by junior Jack Wolsky at 2:07.82.

Senior Steve Novak led the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.96 while Huss led the 100-yard butterfly at 57.24.

Incoming freshman Kalen Hill led the team at backstroke with a 59.96.

In the final individual event, breaststroke specialist Schaeffer led the Magicians with a 1:06.86 in the 100 breaststroke.

In succeeding diving coach Jennifer Callahan, Kao Jenne completed his first year as coach last season and is now returning four strong divers to the team with four new divers in tow.

“We’re really going to be looking at the diving boards a lot this season,” Solper said. “We’ve got a lot of potential there and I think they could be one of our stronger events throughout the course of the season.”

So far, the returning divers have been showing more progress than they did in past season, according to Jenne. The four new divers are still learning.

“I have two that are going to compete this Thursday because they’ve learned six dives already which is crazy fast,” Jenne said. “The other two are still working on their six dives but it’s been going good so far.”

At the Intrasquad Meet, junior Layton King led the divers with a final score of 225.80, followed by Reece Pederson (184.35) and Mason Robertson (177.05).

For the returning divers, Jenne hopes to see them surpass their scores from last season. Jenne also hopes to see the new divers make the cut, which is to learn all five different positions before the end of the season.

This season will be spent building up their courage on the board as well as their body awareness for future seasons with the Magi.

“We’re really strong in a lot of (events), especially diving — we have a lot of divers this year, the most that I can remember — so we’re a really positive team this year with a lot of good people that can help us,” Schaeffer said.

Today, the Magicians will go head to head against Bismarck Legacy for their first meet of the season.

“Legacy is an outstanding team,” Solper said. “They’re a little bit smaller in numbers, but they’ve got some really great athletes. So, it’ll be kind of the individual races that we’ll look toward.”

Due to Minot High’s roster size, the overall score might not be as competitive as the races actually are in the pool.

“We always look forward to competing with Legacy, they’re a great program, they’re coached by a great coach and they’ve got great sportsmanship,” Solper said. “It’ll be a very cordial meet, but the guys will still have to be ready to show up if they want to try to out-touch a lot of the great athletes on the Legacy team.”

The dual between Legacy and Minot High will begin at 5 p.m. at Magic City Campus today.