Grand Forks Central swimmer hopes for another big finish in defending state crown
A year ago, Grand Forks Central's Madeline Elseth was a freshman and entered the North Dakota state swimming and diving meet seeded sixth before the preliminaries.
In the prelims, Elseth finished third. In the finals, she then won the state championship in the 500 freestyle.
With the state meet coming up Saturday in Bismarck, Elseth is hoping history can repeat itself.
"Last year I went into state and I swam probably the best races of my life," Elseth said. "I really hope, even with this whole different situation with COVID, that I can keep up and hopefully swim another good race."
Elseth will enter the state meet with the 10th-fastest seeding time. Grand Forks coach Bryan Walls said that's partly a product of a strange season in which teams didn't hold big meets because of the ongoing pandemic.
"She really hasn't had an opportunity to race anyone outside of our first meet," Walls said. "But Madeline will really have to step up if she wants to repeat."
The state meet will also be unique. There will be no preliminary swims. Teams are split into morning and afternoon sessions, with only finals to be run.
Elseth said not having large meets this year has been noticeable. Walls estimates Grand Forks lost five meets this year due to the pandemic.
"It changes things like times, and the energy of the season," said Elseth, who's also ranked No. 11 in the 200 freestyle. "Without those big meets, it's harder to pump yourself up. This season, you really have to find the motivation within yourself and can't depend on others."
Both Grand Forks Central and Red River, which are both coached by Walls, will compete in the afternoon session of the state meet.
Grand Forks has dominated the 500 freestyle since 2003, winning every year except two, with one of those years (2008) belonging to Minot's Dagny Knutson, a national high school record holder in a number of events.
"(Elseth) was a surprise last year, but she earned it," Walls said.
Grand Forks also has a hopeful high finish from Central senior Zoie Frattin, an all-EDC pick, who's ranked fourth in the 100 backstroke and sixth in the 200 IM.
One Grand Forks swimmer from a year ago won't be defending a state title, as Red River's Elsa Musselman (state champion in the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly in 2019) and her family moved to Texas.
Walls said swimmers will need to self-motivate at the state meet.
"There's not going to be the usual hoopla," he said. "Sometimes those things make it easy to fire up to do it. At the end of the day, you have to be the one to do it and fire up and compete. All of our girls have done a good job trying to mitigate what they can control and just compete."