Grand Forks' young swimmers continue to climb up the rankings
Ryaan Alshami (50 freestyle) and Avery Berg (500 freestyle) carry No. 1 seeds into this weekend's North Dakota state meet in West Fargo.
GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks boys swimming coach Brent Newman has a group of young, fast swimmers, and he sees a little of the program's decorated past in them.
"They push each other, and it's really similar to like 2004 to 2006," Newman said. "They're a good, solid core group and putting in the work."
Newman said they remind him of Grand Forks' multiple-time state champions from the 2000s in Matt Bonzer, Ethan and Ty Nimens and Jake Gerszewski.
"They're young," Newman said. "You can sit back and look at that and get a smile on your face that that's what you have a year or two down the road but we have to worry about tomorrow. You never know what can change one day to the next. Right now, they're quality athletes and keep working hard and should do good things this weekend. The future holds great things as well as long as we stick together and keep putting in that time."
The fast and young five — freshmen Avery Berg and Logan Bjerke and sophomores Ryaan Alshami, Jackson Rerick and Aiden Johnson — will put their high seeds to the test at the North Dakota state meet in West Fargo on Friday and Saturday.
Alshami and Berg have No. 1 seeds in the 50 freestyle and 500 freestyle, respectively, while Bjerke has a No. 2 seed in the 100 breaststroke.
Johnson is seventh in the 200 freestyle and Rerick is sixth in the 500 freestyle.
Alshami's time of :21.75 in the 50 freestyle broke the Grand Forks team record back in January.
"It was a surprise that he did that back in January but not a surprise ... he has that speed," Newman said.
Berg is back with the team after taking last season off due to the pandemic, and he's quickly improving his times from his seventh-grade season.
"He's really got that drive for the endurance event," Newman said. "It takes a different mindset to push through 500 as opposed to 50."
Berg, Alshami and Bjerke were named all-conference last weekend.
Bjerke, who's inching closer to Grand Forks' longest-standing record, is hoping to close the gap on No. 1 seed Conner Harr of Fargo Davies in the 100 breaststroke.
"If I can work on my turns, I think I can make it a good race," Bjerke said.
Bjerke said he's also about a second behind Grand Forks' record, which was set by Dieter Lawrence in 1983.
Lawrence was the state champion in the 100 breaststroke from 1981-83.
Grand Forks' young swimmers have also made for strong relay teams. The 200 medley relay team took first at EDC, although a pair of disqualifications to two teams aided that win.
"We've been swimming together for a while, so it's really fun," Bjerke said. "They're some of the better swimmers in their events in the state, and we've been going together for four, five, six years. In practice, it really helps racing guys your age and speed. Having fast guys has really helped us make each other better as we try to outwork each other."
GF KnightRiders at a glance
Coach: Brent Newman.
EDC finish: Fifth.
Top GF seeds in each event
200 freestyle – Avery Berg (4), Aiden Johnson (7), Jackson Rerick (15), Levi Dallum (37)
200 individual medley – Logan Bjerke (8)
50 freestyle – Ryaan Alshami (1), Carson Ohnstad (22)
100 freestyle – Alshami (8), Ohnstad (24), Dallum (26), Dameon Zenawick (38)
500 freestyle – Berg (1), Rerick (6), Johnson (20)
100 breaststroke – Bjerke (2)