Dennis Kemmesat has become something of a connoisseur of trophies in recent years.
The Century boys swimming and diving coach has seen his athletes hoist both regional and state championship trophies over the last five seasons. He definitely prefers the state hardware, and not for aesthetic reasons.
Century's boys have gone home winners in the last five state meets, even though they have only one West Region title to their credit over that span.
So the Patriots have tradition on their side as they try to reverse the outcome of the West Region meet where they trailed champion Minot 496.5-426.
Kemmesat said he was by no means surprised at the way the Magicians roared last Saturday.
"We knew we'd be in a dogfight (with Minot) long before that. ... They have a lot of good kids and a lot of depth. In our minds they were kind of the team to beat this year," Kemmesat said.
So Kemmesat predicts a real battle in the state meet, which begins Friday at the Hulbert Aquatic Center in West Fargo. And he expects his team to be part of the fray right down to the end.
"We go into the state meet with the attitude that the other meets are irrelevant. ... We certainly don't discount what Minot has done all season. It certainly will be interesting to see how it all plays out on Friday," the CHS coach said.
Friday is pivotal, even though no points will be scored. Friday's preliminaries determine the seeds for Saturday when all the points and awards are up for grabs.
Sixteen swimmers in each event advance from Friday to Saturday, and those 16 swim in championship and consolation heats. Consolation heat qualifiers can't place higher than ninth, no matter their times. Likewise, a championship heat entrant can do no worse than eighth.
"Friday is very strategic. You want to bring your best swims on Friday to get you locked into those (championship or consolation) positions, and then swim on Saturday to hold onto or improve those positions," Kemmesat observed.
Minot walked away with the West Region championship without winning a single event. The Magicians used tremendous depth to score almost 500 points.
Kemmesat expects some of those Magician places to winnow away in the state meet, which is twice as large. But he's aware that teams like Mandan, Fargo North, West Fargo Sheyenne and Fargo South can inflict damage on his team, as well.
CHS breaststroker Jayden Porter is among the five returning individual champions. The others are Johnny Mindt of Mandan (diving), Luke Bergstrom of South (50 freestyle), Zach Bueling of Sheyenne (100 freestyle) and Jacob Smith of Sheyenne (500 freestyle).
So Kemmesat is aware that he'll need a peak performance from his team to prevail.
"We've learned never to write them off," he said, referring to talented performers from non-contending teams. "We've got to come prepared to swim fast."
Kemmesat said state meet teams have been prepared to score the maximum number of points through a carefully crafted training regimen. In addition, there's been lots of shifting and sorting to get each swimmer in the event where he has the greatest potential.
"It's really a 14-week sorting out process until you get to state," he said.
Although the Patriots didn't win the regional meet, Kemmesat said there were no setbacks that warrant alarm.
"We really didn't have any anomalies that set us back. ... We had guys who dropped a little bit of time ... but we want the big time drops this week," he observed. "Overall, we're pleased with how we swam at the conference meet. We had a couple of snafus in the relays ... but overall we were happy with our performance."
The Patriots will put 17 athletes in the pool on Friday. Kemmesat is guessing Minot's team will run between 20 and 25 entrants.
"We'll fill up all of our events except for the 500 freestyle, where we'll maybe have three athletes," Minot coach Jake Solper said after the regional meet.
Kemmesat said Century will put the maximum four entrants in most events, as well.
"We have a couple of events we won't have four swimmers in ... the 100 free and the 100 back ... but pretty much everywhere else we'll have four in there," he said.
Solper said there's more to planning for a meet than trying to defeat Century.
"As a coach you don't necessarily look at how one other team is doing. ... You try to paint a picture of the entire state ... and we try to place our guys where they can perform to the best of their ability," he said.
Solper agreed with Kemmesat's assessment that the East Region teams will change the dynamics of the meet.
"It's really challenging trying to gauge your team's strength out of the regional meet. And then you add in the other conference and it changes the complexion of every event," he said.
While Solper was encouraged by his team's regional performance, he's still wary of what Century can bring to the table.
"They may still be the team to beat in a state format," he said.
In the 43-year history of the state boys swimming and diving meet, only five teams have won championships -- Minot with 25, Fargo North with nine, Century with five, Mandan with three and West Fargo with two. North and West Fargo shared the 2012 championship. ... Solper coached the 2010 and 2011 Magician championship teams. He swam on some of the Minot teams that ran off 10 straight from 1999 through 2008. ... Century's current run of five straight state titles has all occurred on Kemmesat's watch.