State title No. 6 in a row is the target for Century as the swimming season approaches the stretch run.
Dennis Kemmesat, head coach of the Patriots, has no illusions of a coronation, however.
Coming off a rare second-place finish to Minot the previous weekend in West Fargo, the Patriots returned to their powerful ways on Saturday, piling up seven wins and 435 points to win the 11-team Century Invite.
"We had two good days. Obviously, a few teams were missing, but we were very happy with how the guys performed," Kemmesat said. "I feel like we're progressing toward championship-season form."
The most notable of the teams not in Bismarck for the two-day meet was Minot. Kemmesat said the Magicians are the real deal.
"Minot is very formidable. Going into state in my mind Minot is the team for us to beat because of the depth they have," Kemmesat said. "In pretty much every event, we have a state-championship caliber guy, but we don't necessarily have the depth we've had in past years. Minot might not have that top, top guy, but they have a lot of really quality kids."
Even without the Magi in town, Kemmesat said there was plenty of quality inside the Bismarck Aquatic Center.
"Fargo South has a nice team. (West Fargo) Sheyenne has some really good teams. You look at what Mandan has been doing, they've been really impressive," Kemmesat said. "The competition was very formidable. There were a lot of really good kids here the last couple of days."
The Patriots got typically strong performances from their big dogs -- Jayden Porter (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke), Trysten Ruhland (100 butterfly), Adam Nodland (50 free) and Chris Birnbaum (500 free) -- combining for five wins.
Century's relay dominance continued in the 200 medley (Charles Koebele, Porter, Ruhland, Will Dohrmann) and 200 free (Nodland, Ryan Johnson, Dohrmann, Birnbaum).
But in the 400 free, Mandan's quartet of Matheus Pimenta, Joey Clark, T.J. Reinhardt and David Hoffman edged Birnbaum, Nodland, Johnson and Porter for the second straight meet. The Braves' 3:20.96 shaved three seconds off their previous PR.
"After last week we knew we could hold our own against them," Mandan coach Ralph Manley said. "(Century) is very good. It was a great race, but our guys stayed tough to the task and came out on top."
Pimenta turned in another banner day for the Braves. The foreign exchange student from Brazil touched first in the 200 free (1:48.54) and 100 free (48.60). Bismarck High's Eric Krug (49.78) was second.
"He's done really well plugging in the holes we lost from last year," Manley said of Pimenta. "He's been very consistent and done a really nice job for us."
The diving competition was a Braves vs. Patriots showdown as defending state champion Johnny Mindt (427.85) of Mandan and Century's Josh Pikarski (415.45) were the only divers to clear 400.
Manley likes where his team is entering February.
"I feel like we're looking good and swimming strong," he said. "It's just a matter of keeping everybody healthy and fine tuning our starts and turns. Hopefully we can continue on the path we've been on."
Kemmesat said his team will begin the tapering phase of their season soon in preparation for the meets that matter most, particularly state on March 2-3 in West Fargo. With a talented crop of swimmers across the state, the marquee meets should provide plenty of memorable moments.
"There is really good competition in all the events. You look at the 50 free, 100 free, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke, there's a lot of really quality kids in those events," Kemmesat said. "It's going to be exciting if you kind of project out to what's ahead. We feel like we're right on track with where we need to be."