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GIRLS SWIMMING: Ljunggren wins state title

Alexis Ljunggren's first state championship came with mixed emotions. The Grand Forks Central eighth-grader won the 500 freestyle Saturday as the North Dakota girls high school swim meet concluded at UND's Hyslop Sports Center. She was the lone G...

Alexis Ljunggren's first state championship came with mixed emotions.

The Grand Forks Central eighth-grader won the 500 freestyle Saturday as the North Dakota girls high school swim meet concluded at UND's Hyslop Sports Center. She was the lone Grand Forks champion.

"I'm very excited to win,'' Ljunggren said. "But I feel bad for Katie.''

That would be teammate Katie Svendson. The Central senior was runner-up after winning the 500 state title as a junior. Svendson was consistently winning the 500 earlier in the season, but Ljunggren beat her a few times late in the season.

"I knew it would be close,'' said Ljunggren, who placed third in the 500 as a seventh-grader. "I didn't think I would be beating her this year. She's definitely helped me. Swimming against her pushes me to be better.''

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Ljunggren and Svendson swam against each other in side-by-side lanes in the final.

By the third lap, the teammates already were pulling away from the other six swimmers. Midway through the race, Ljunggren had a slight lead; by the bell lap, the eighth-grader was a full body length ahead of Svendson, and she stretched the lead out slightly down the stretch.

Ljunggren also was runner-up in the 200.

"Lexi winning was a surprise,'' Grand Forks coach Bryan Walls said. "She's still only an eighth-grader, and Katie is a senior and the defending champion. It's a tough situation. We're happy for Lexi. She's worked hard. And Katie did well, too. But it's tough for Katie, being defending champ, to not win.

"Lexi has worked to get stronger and better. Coming into the season, I knew they'd finish 1-2 in the 500. But at that time, we figured the order would be Katie and Lexi.''

For Svendson, the disappointment wasn't in place.

"It was the time,'' she said. "My time was slower than last year. But I'm happy for Lexi. She'll carry on (Grand Forks') tradition in the 500.''

In the team race, the title is heading back west. Minot won the championship, scoring 337 points to runner-up West Fargo's 326. Defending champion Fargo North was third with 315.

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"We love having it come back over to the west,'' Minot said Dan Hinton said. "And we've had a great tradition at Minot. Once we got in a couple of meets this season, I thought we had a chance to win it.''

A year ago, North became the first East team since 1977 to win the state championship.

"It would have been nice to have kept it in the East,'' North coach Talia Butery said. "We knew it would be close, and West Fargo gave Minot a run for it. Minot deserved to win. They have a great team.''

Minot won only three events, the 200 medley and the 200 freestyle relays, and the 50 freestyle where teammates Emily Hamel and Francesca Walker-Rozo finished 1-2, respectively.

But the Majettes had top-six finishers in six open events, including a pair in four events, in capturing the program's first state title since 2008.

Related Topics: PREP SPORTSNORTH DAKOTA
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