Minot defends pool, West Region crown

Luke Heilman heard enough of the pro-Bismarck Century banter.

Since the end of last season up until Saturday’s West Region swim meet at Magic City Campus, the Minot senior kept hearing how the Patriots were the prohibitive favorite.

But Heilman, who won the 50-yard freestyle, and his cohorts pieced together their finest meet of the season to defend their region crown.

After winning all three relays and finishing with four individual champions, the Magicians (585 points) bested defending state-champion Century (504) in front of a raucous, capacity crowd.

“We’ve definitely known that Century has been the favorite all year,” Heilman said. “So to be able to defend our title in our pool shows how far we’ve come.”

Jared Kramer (100-yard freestyle), Nick Buch (100-yard backstroke), and Ethan Bahl (100-yard breaststroke) also claimed titles for Minot, which finished the night with a milestone.

Bahl, Buch, Heilman and Zdenek Skalicky teamed up to set a West Region and pool record in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of one minute, 39.23 seconds on the onset of the meet.

The nice start set the tone for the Magicians.

“I think we came into this meet a little more prepared,” Minot coach Jake Solper said. “We’re going to enjoy this tonight but on Monday we know we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Heilman and Bahl teamed up with Scott Parker and Ryan Swartwout to win the the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:31.31), leaving a four-second chasm between second-place Century (1:35.09).

The 400-yard freestyle relay was a close one, though.

Skalicky, Kramer, Swartwout and Lee Keller (3:29.09) edged the Patriots (3:23.81) to sweep the relay portion of the meet.

All but one event was won by a Century or Minot athlete. Mandan’s Nathan Berger (395) clipped Minot’s Jeremy Fix (381.60) in claim the top diving spot.

“This was definitely our best meet of the year,” Heilman said. “We’re just looking to capitalize off this performance heading into state.”

Jamestown (234) finished a distant third in the team standings, rounded out by Williston (226), Mandan (225) and Bismarck High (190).

Century was paced by the Sether brothers – Dylan and Loren – who combined to win three individual races. Dylan, who won the 200 freestyle, was named the West Region senior athlete of the year.

Loren claimed the top spot in the 200-yard individual medley and the 500-yard freestyle.

Century’s Dennis Kemmesat and Williston’s Thomas Wheeling were named co-coaches of the year.

“(Century) is going to be a different team at state,” Solper said. “We just had a lot of guys finish at the top spots, which was big.”

The two-day state tournament begins on Friday at the Bismarck Aquatic Center.