Century too much: Patriots power past Minot for first-ever title; Bahl triumphs

BISMARCK – Minot High coach Jake Solper didn’t exhibit the demeanor of someone whose oft-champion program fell short.

Instead he wore an ear-to-ear grin knowing the Magicians peaked amid a second-place finish at the state swim meet on Saturday at the Bismarck Aquatic Center.

Solper was more interested in throwing kudos in the direction of first-time champ Bismarck Century, which won six events to run away with the title.

“We were happy with the meet overall,” Solper said. “We knew coming into the season that Century was the favorite. They didn’t graduate any points and added weapons to their arsenal. They deserved it.”

The Patriots (448.5 points) won five of the first seven events, too much for Minot (379.5) to eclipse. East Region power Fargo North (252) was a distant third.

Not that the Magi – winners of a state-best 25 titles – didn’t the make meet a notable one.

Ethan Bahl was Minot’s sole individual winner, claiming a 100-yard breaststroke title and his team also came away winners in the 200 freestyle relay.

The Magicians’ most notable performance interestingly came in a runner-up finish, as Bahl, Nich Buch, Zdenek Skalicky and Luke Heilman teamed up for a school-record 1:38.14 in the 200 medley relay.

Yet it still wasn’t enough to best Century (1:36.64), which set its third state record of the meet. Dylan Sether, who anchored the relay, set state records in the 200 free and 100 breast during Friday’s prelims.

It was just that kind of weekend for the Patriots, the one team other than Minot and Mandan to ever win a state title out of the West Region.

“We knew this year was our best shot,” Century coach Dennis Kemmesat said. “We’re solely stoked. We knew the road would have to go through Minot. They have tradition and if we wanted to win we’d have to go through them.”

Minot bested Century at last week’s West Region meet at Magic City Campus, but brothers Dylan and Loren Sether wouldn’t be denied in their home pool.

They combined for three individual titles, with Loren claiming the 200 individual medley, and were on a pair of winning relays.

Bahl kept the Patriots from adding to its laundry list of winners, though.

Century’s Collin Kemmesat had the top prelim time in the 100 breast, but Bahl (58.45) beat him when it mattered.

“I was a little worried there after coming in as the top seed then being second,” Bahl said. “But it was a good race. It was really close.”

Solper was giddy about his junior’s triumph.

“That was just awesome,” Solper said. “(Kemmesat) is a tough competitor and was gunning for it, but Ethan was able to come out on top.”

Bahl was also atop the podium as part of the winning 200 freestyle relay (1:30.14) along with Heilman, Ryan Swartwout and Parker Scott.

Though Minot went consecutive years without a title for the first time since 1997-1998, Bahl was pleased with the result.

“Even though we took second I thought we had a great meet,” Bahl said. “We came out and had fun.”

Lee Keller (100 free) and Nich Buch (100 back) placed third for Minot, while Jeremy Fix (diving) and Heilman (50 free) placed fourth.