Majettes bring back core of top swimmers

Minot High School junior McKenna Brown has been with the girls swimming and diving program since she was in seventh grade. Four seasons have passed and Brown still hasn’t hoisted a state championship trophy with her teammates.

That’s a long absence from the top spot for a storied program, which won six straight titles before the drought. The Majettes believe they are finally back in position to add to their record 22 championships.

“I think we’re gonna get it this year,” Brown said. “If we work hard we will.”

She has good reason to expect a first-place team finish. Brown is one of five returning all-state Majettes expected to place high in multiple events following a third-place team finish in 2012.

“I’m hoping top two this year,” MHS coach Dan Hinton said. “Yeah, I’m really hoping to make some moves. You know, we didn’t lose a lot. We, unfortunately, didn’t have any seniors score last year, which was hard. That was unusual for us. We had great leadership last year out of our seniors, but as far as scoring points, it didn’t happen.”

Many of the top point scorers around the state also graduated. Brown is expected to contend for individual titles in her marquee events – 200- and 500-meter freestyle. She was fifth in the 200 and fourth in the 500 as a sophomore.

“McKenna’s an amazing distance swimmer,” Hinton said. “On top of that she can swim anything else we put her in. She could win the 100 back, possibly, if we put her in it. And we’ll look at that when the time comes.”

Hinton expects senior Sarah Bogenrief (100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley) and sophomore Emily Hamel (50 and 100 freestyle) to contend for individual titles and contribute on important relay teams.

“There’s a few girls that graduated that beat me (in the 100 breaststroke) and the state-title holder from last year graduated too,” Bogenrief said, “so there’s a better chance, but there’s still a few that I have to watch out for.”

Bogenrief placed seventh in the 100 breaststroke and 13th in the 200 individual medley. Hamel, who took fourth in the 50 and sixth in the 100, looked at the record board in the Magic City Campus natatorium Tuesday. She wants more than just a state title.

“I’m going to get the record up there, so that’s my goal,” Hamel said. She was pointing to Dagny Knutson’s school-record 23.17 seconds in the 50 and former Majette Courtney Funk’s state-meet record of 23.36. Hamel needs to shave close to a second off her personal best to join that impressive company.

After failing to score consistently a year ago, Hinton sees his team regaining the points it traditionally has in diving. Seniors Emmalee Stach and Maddie Bickel lead a growing group of primarily young divers.

“I’m really hoping to see (Stach and Bickel) crack the top eight this year,” Hinton said. “We have a large diving team this year. I’m hoping that there’s some point scorers in there.”

Minnesota transfers Francesca and Tatiana Walker-Rozo will add depth as MHS lost two of its most promising young swimmers. Second-team all-state selection Cassie Askvig, a sophomore, is focusing on her basketball career, Hinton said. The team also lost freshman Marena Kouba, who moved to St. Cloud, Minn.

Bogenrief, Brown and Hamel are first-team all-state returnees. Junior twins Alexis and Syndey Clark return after second-team all-state campaigns.

Sophomore Sidni Kast could be a top competitor for the Majettes in the breaststroke and individual medley events. Hinton is still looking to shore up the breaststroke lineup.

Joining Bogenrief as co-captains are seniors Devin Scott, Jordan Hubbard and Else Nelson.

“I think we definitely have a huge chance at the (West Region) and state title,” Bogenrief said. “There’s a lot of really good girls and there’s been a lot of improvement and we’ve added a few girls too that are really good.”

Bogenrief expects sophomore Josie Gillund to have a breakout season and add depth behind Brown in the distance events.

“(Gillund’s) a really hard worker and I think that this year at state she should make it,” Bogenrief said.

Hinton sees defending West Region champion Bismarck Century contending again after a runner-up finish to Fargo North at the 2012 state meet.

“You can never count out Century these days,” Hinton said. “Century is always tough. I know they lost some girls, but it seems like they lose a few and they’ve always got a few more waiting in the eighth-grade ranks to move up. I’m hoping that because we didn’t lose a lot that we’re gonna kind of balance that out and really test them.”

The Majettes have an intrasquad meet Thursday afternoon and the season begins against Mandan and Jamestown at Mandan on Sept. 7.

UPDATE: This article was updated to correctly state Bogenrief’s placing in two events at last year’s state meet.

Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.