Some of Regan Dennis' volleyball kills travel with a speed that can inflict pain, if not injury.
The same source that propels those high-velocity hits makes her the competitor she is on the volleyball court, basketball court and in the throwing ring.
"When I was a little kid I was a very aggressive player," she said in explaining her explosively free swing. "Just the excitement of the game and the adrenaline flowing through me is a big help, I feel."
Dennis' parents, Ryan and Teara Dennis, gave her a sampling of activities when she was in early elementary school. Basketball, volleyball and track and field were the ones that stuck. No matter what the athletic endeavor, however, she's been a fangs-bared competitor.
"I've always been very competitive. ... My first athletic experience was in Y basketball. I was always the little crazy girl running after everything," she recalled. "That was even more so coming to Century and knowing that the athletic programs are at such a high level. And the coaches motivate you to strive to be even better."
In all three of Dennis' athletic pursuits, the Patriots play at a high level, indeed.
She's been a member of four state championship teams, two in volleyball and two in track and field. Additionally, she's played in three other state finals, two in basketball and one in volleyball.
And last spring Dennis was a member of the CHS track and field team that missed a sixth straight state championship by three points (Fargo Davies 122, CHS 119). She contributed 15 points to the cause with third-place finishes in the javelin and shot put and a sixth in the discus.
Being in the middle of the fray so often tends to keep the adrenaline pumping, according the Dennis.
"It definitely keeps the standards high. ... It doesn't put pressure on us. It pushes us to get there," he said.
And getting there, into the circle of champions, is a thrill every time.
"I don't think winning state championships can ever get old," Dennis observed. "... Just the emotional experience you go through winning a state championship has an impact off the court as well as on the court."
Dennis said the culture of winning at Century -- the Patriots captured four state titles in the fall sports season alone -- makes it a vibrant place to be as an athlete.
"We all feed off each others' success. Everyone is supportive and we push each other to be successful," she noted. "... Winning is part of the athletic landscape. My biggest competitors are my teammates. I think Century is so successful because everyone is so competitive and hard-working."
Dennis says having that big picture, a state championship, as a focal point helps to keep the ups and downs of a long season in perspective.
"Going into each season you've got to go game by game. But in the back of my mind is that same goal -- to get to the state championship. ... When there are bumps, you continue to strive to be the best you can be," she said.
As Dennis and her basketball teammates head into a new season, expectations are high. After runner-up state tournament finishes behind Fargo Shanley the past two seasons, the Hoopster, the statewide preseason basketball book, has the Patriots ranked No. 1 in Class A girls basketball.
Six girls graduated from last year's team, but the school's tradition -- three state championships and two second-place finishes in the last eight seasons -- leads to assumptions of continued success.
Dennis said such assumptions do not abound in the CHS locker room, where the emphasis is on the effort that's required for the task ahead.
"We did lose six seniors who were a huge part of the team," she said, looking back at last season, a 25-2 performance. "Coming into practice, doing our work and developing the chemistry on the team will really take us a long way."
The 6-foot Dennis, who averaged 13.9 points per game and 6.7 rebounds last winter, figures prominently in Century's plans for the coming season. The Patriots open their season tonight, playing host to Mandan in a West Region game.
Dennis' athletic prowess hasn't gone unnoticed. She's earned all-state honors twice in volleyball and once in basketball and was named the outstanding senior athlete in volleyball. She says such accolades are not her driving force, though.
"At the beginning of the season you're shooting more for team goals. I was nominated at the West Region (tournament), and I felt I would never be up for that honor if it wasn't for my teammates and coaches," she said.
To anyone looking in from the outside, the view is Regan Dennis, volleyball; Regan Dennis, basketball, and Regan Dennis, thrower.
She knows sports are a big part of her identity, and she's comfortable with that.
"Sports are a big part of my life and that's what people see me as," she said.
But there are other dimensions.
"I'm involved in Peer-to-Peer, which is mentoring for kids with disabilites ... and DECA (leadership and entrepreneurial development) and Sources of Strength, a suicide prevention program," she noted.
As her senior year ebbs away, Dennis already has the next step of her life mapped out. She'll enroll at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., where she'll play volleyball.
"I like that the classes are smaller, so I can do better in that atmosphere," she said.
Narrowing her athletic scope wan't hard. As her high school sports career has progressed, she found herself leaning toward volleyball.
"I like the atmosphere of volleyball more," she said. "It's so much more upbeat, and I feel I can succeed better in volleyball."