Majette swimmers Allie Elliott and Iris Jessen lead through differing styles
The differences between Allie Elliott and Iris Jessen are quite stark.
While both Elliott and Jessen serve as senior captains on the Minot High School girls swimming and diving team, they specialize in different events. Elliott has carved a niche as a distance swimmer, while Jessen prefers sprint swimming.
Elliott started swimming at the age of 6, while Jessen took up the sport in sixth grade. Despite the experience gap, both swimmers have found ways to lead the Majettes throughout their careers.
“(Elliott) leads by example, always has good manners, things like that,” Minot head coach Emily Jensen said. “I think that not only in high school, but also in club, kids try to emulate her. She’s always giving back to others and always wants to do the right thing. (Jessen) is your fun-loving leader. She finds the good in almost everything and never seems to have a bad day. She leads with a positive attitude at practice, and the kids really admire that about her.”
Jessen was born and raised in Minot. As a military child, Elliott was born in Alaska and moved to places like Germany and Japan before arriving at Minot High as a freshman.
Once Elliott dove in the water at a young age, she did not look back. Jessen tried soccer and volleyball before discovering her love for swimming.
“None of the other sports seem to be more of a family,” Jessen said. “It’s just one team. We’re just all together. Swimming is my favorite because I think it’s my best sport. I’ve made a lot of good friends on the team.”
Elliott added: “I’ve poured my heart and soul into swimming. It’s something I’ve always done. It’s just what I do.”
Last season, the team elected the captains through a vote. The younger Majettes often seek swimming advice from Elliott, Jessen and fellow senior captain Brooklyn Filler.
“Being a captain means that people on the team look up to us,” Elliott said. “We just have to set a good example. We have so many younger girls, and they come to us with questions all the time. It’s our job to answer those questions to the best of our ability.”
Those leadership qualities did not come overnight. When Elliott and Jessen were younger, they turned to older teammates for advice.
“They were the younger kids who didn’t know what to do or where to go,” Jensen said. “I think they understand that, and they’re extra-helpful with the younger kids. They have molded right into their captain roles.”
As captains, the seniors plan team activities. Recently, the Majettes dyed their hair as a way to bond before the WDA and state meets.
However, Jessen encountered a problem with her hair.
“It was supposed to be purple,” Jessen said with a laugh. “It did not turn out.”
According to Elliott, teammates would describe her as “down-to-earth and chill.” Jessen said her teammates would use words such as “hard-working, funny and crazy sometimes.”
“I don’t know,” Jessen said. “I can’t explain it. I’m just wild sometimes.”
Both Majettes have qualified for numerous events in the state meet. Jessen is a key member of Minot’s 200-yard individual medley and participates in the 100-yard backstroke.
As a distance specialist, Elliott swims the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle events.
“My endurance can kind of carry me,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot of elements and strategy to the 200 and 500. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Jessen and Elliott praised the coaching staff for their work. Although the swimmers use different styles to find success, both acknowledged the coaches’ role for their growth and development.
“I’ve learned to try my hardest and to never give up,” Jessen said. “If I’m nervous before a race, they’re telling me, ‘Keep your head down. It’s your race.'”
The Majettes will compete at the WDA Meet at the BSC Aquatic & Wellness Center in Bismarck on Nov. 9. Minot will return to Bismarck for the two-day state competition on Nov. 15.
“It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of motivation to do a sport like swimming,” Elliott said. “It brings out the best in you and tests what you can do and how hard you can push yourself.”
Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.