The high school girls swimming and diving state championship meet is still about seven weeks away, but favorites in individual events are already becoming clear.
Minot High is loaded with state qualifiers including a new face and emerging standout. Francesca Walker-Rozo, a junior transfer from St. Cloud, Minn., has qualified in four individual events and three relays. Butterfly is her strongest stroke and she finished 29th in the 100-meter race last year in Minnesota Class AA, the more competitive of two divisions.
Walker-Rozo is establishing herself as a serious contender in the event during her first month competing against North Dakota's top swimmers. She swam the state's third-best time of the season in 1 minute, 0.9 seconds for a win at last weekend's Grand Forks Invite.
"She's aggressive," MHS coach Dan Hinton said. "My specialty as a swimmer when I was in high school was sprints. I've always kind of had an appreciation for those athletes that have that aggressive ability. Every race she goes after, the team is behind her and expecting her to go out (fast) and she does. It's fun to watch her swim because she has that don't-quit attitude."
Hinton's enjoyed seeing the summer's rumor of a top-class addition come true. He said she is likely to swim in two relays at the state meet in mid-November, but the decision on which relays and which other individual event is still being decided.
"It does look like 100 butterfly is probably a definite," he said. "Beyond that, she could go 200 (freestyle), she could go 50 free, she could go 100 (backstroke). She has options for us, which is good. She is versatile. I have not seen her swim the (individual medley) yet, but I know that she's fully capable."
Walker-Rozo listed the 100 freestyle as another top event, but is unlikely to swim that in the state meet because it directly follows the 100 butterfly. She said her top goal is winning the 100 butterfly and beating her personal best of 58.88, which she set in a longer swimsuit at the Minnesota senior short course state championships in March.
She wants to beat that time in a regular swimsuit and doing so may lead to a state title. West Fargo senior Danica Dutt recorded the best time this season in 58.35, followed by Century junior Danielle Bergeson's 1:00.42. Hinton sees the event coming down to Walker-Rozo and Dutt and he doesn't hide his enthusiasm for it.
"Danica is a very solid swimmer and she herself is very well-rounded and talented," Hinton said. "Those two going head-to-head at state is going to be a great race. My hair on my arms is standing up even thinking about it. Those two are going to have an absolute battle with each other."
Walker-Rozo and freshman sister Tatiana, also a swimmer, moved to Minot with their parents this summer.
The Majettes welcomed their new star and the transition has been smooth.
"She's definitely unique," MHS senior co-captain Jordan Hubbard said. "She's a lot of fun. She was definitely a great asset to the team. She came in and she was very open with herself and it was easy to get to know her and she's been a lot of fun."
The boost Walker-Rozo brings the team can be seen at 5 p.m. Friday when MHS hosts Davies and Bismarck High at Magic City Campus. The Majettes host an invitational the following morning at 10:30.
"We have two girls that swim the 100 fly for us very well, regularly," Hinton said. "Francesca and then Devin Scott. Even between those two there's some friendly competition that gets everybody pumped up to see who's gonna do what. ... When (Walker-Rozo) swims, just like when Sarah Bogenrief swims or McKenna Brown swims, it becomes an all-eyes-on-her event."
3-2 format should benefit tennis team
No West Region team beat No. 1 Century in the regular season, but the Minot High boys tennis team likes its chances at this week's region tournament in Bismarck.
The No. 4 Magicians need to get by No. 5 Jamestown to set up a semifinal matchup with the Patriots, who beat MHS 9-0 two weeks ago. The tournament begins today at 10:30 a.m. and the team portion concludes tonight. Individual singles and doubles brackets play Friday and Saturday.
The Blue Jays didn't prove much of a match in an 8-1 loss to MHS, but the 3-2 (singles-doubles) format may favor Jamestown as much as coach Scott DeLorme expects it to favor his Magicians in the tournament.
"In this 3-2 format, with Dustin (Foster) and Isaac (Massey) at the top of the lineup, we think we can beat a lot of teams and hopefully we play well," DeLorme said.
Foster and Massey, the team's Nos. 1 and 2 singles players, respectively, will remain at those spots for both the team and individual singles portions of the tournament.
"From the sounds of it, a lot of the other top players in the region are gonna play in the doubles portion," DeLorme said, "so we think those two can probably be the top two seeds in singles. We have big expectations for them going in, not only to qualify for the state tournament, but to get to the (region) semifinals, probably the championship and hopefully play each other."
Teams play a 6-3 format in the regular season. Foster sees MHS as the top threat to Century in the tournament format.
"I think me and Isaac have a pretty big percentage chance of beating anybody who we play," Foster said. "My goal is to win the West Region title and Isaac will be right up there too."
MHS gained confidence in a 5-4 loss to No. 2 Mandan last week. The Magicians want to see the Braves again and will if both teams advance to tonight's final.
"We kind of used that as just a measuring point," DeLorme said. "I think we've gotten better. (Mandan) beat Williston 5-4 earlier in the year and we lost to them, so we feel like we're right there."
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.