During this unusual 2020 season, Century's results in the swimming pool remain up to the Patriots' lofty standards.
In some cases, they're even better.
Century won 11 of 12 events on Saturday en route to 584 points in the Mandan Invitational, which was held at two different locations. Half the teams were in Mandan. The other half at the Bismarck Aquatic and Wellness Center. Minot (402 points) was a distant second.
"This season has been really strange and it's hard not seeing the fans up in the stands cheering us on," said Century senior Paige Keller. "But the thing is, we still have our spirit. We still can control our attitude and effort we compete with and we're going to make the most of every opportunity to be together doing what we love to do."
Six Patriots earned individual wins on the day. University of Arizona-bound Lexi Duchsherer (200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke) and junior Sarah Dorrheim (50 freestyle, 100 backstroke) swam to doubles.
Erin Palmer (200 free), Taylor Cook (100 free), McKenna Matt (500 free) and Keller (100 butterfly) also picked up wins. As usual, Century swept the relays.
It all starts at practice for the Patriots.
"We do have great chemistry on our team, but we also want to be in that top spot," Keller said. "When it's time to race, we all put on our game faces and swim our hearts out."
That does not mean everyone gets to swim the events they'd prefer. Chasing state championships — Century has won five in a row — is the goal.
"I guess that it's my job to find out what our best lineup is for the team as a whole," Century coach Kathy Aspaas said. "Sometimes it's hard for everyone to accept, and I understand that. But when it's all said and done, being state champions, in the end, I think they think is worth it."
An example of that on Saturday was Matt. She was put into the grueling 500 freestyle and turned in a personal-best time of 5:46.05, edging Jamestown's Georgia Lettenmaier (5:46.23).
Matt, whose preferred races are the backstroke and butterfly, has a simple approach to the 500.
"I try and take it out pretty fast so that if I die at the end, well, I died at the end and hopefully I'll have enough left," she said.
"McKenna didn't choose the 500 but we were a little weak in that event. We asked her to step up and she did just a great job," Aspaas said. "That's pretty indicative of the type of kids we have. They're dedicated to their sport. They're dedicated to their teammates. They're very versatile and willing to do what they can to help the team be successful."
Keller swam legs in the winning 200 medley and 200 free relays. The medley foursome featured a different mix with Matt, Keller, Emma Vallie and Lauryn Caster touching in 1:57.37.
"Personally and team-wise I feel like it's been better this season than even in the past," Keller said. "Even though it's been choppy and a different kind of season in a lot of ways, it's been nice to have the normalcy of being able to go to the pool, be with our friends and try to get better every day.
"A lot of the things outside of swimming, with school and just with life are really different. To be able to be with our teammates swimming, having that makes you appreciate it even more."
With the regular season winding down, Century has just one meet left, the possibility exists that the region and state meets could look different. Much like Saturday's meet, a certain number of teams could be sent to one location, while others go to a different pool.
Regardless of when and where the final two meets are held, Matt feels like the Patriots are in good position.
"I think we are on track and where we want to be," she said. "We're still having a lot of personal-bests and new state qualifiers, so hopefully we can continue to improve and be at our best at the end of the season."
Bella Price was the lone non-Century winner in the meet. The Minot diver narrowly edged Paige Davis of Legacy, 424.20-424.0. The Sabers' quartet of McKayla Donat, Nova Beckler-Bell, Abby Erickson and Regan Minh placed second (1:48.13) behind Palmer, Keller, Dorrheim and Duchsherer's blazing 1:39.41.
"We had some very nice swims today. I'm impressed that late in the season without our traditional practice schedule the girls are able to continue to have personal-bests and swim as well as they are," Aspaas said. "The hard work they put in is showing."
Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or email@example.com
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!