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Eric Peterson, Published March 05 2009

ND state boys swimming: Fargo South's Griggs ready for final state meet

About a month ago, Ben Griggs came down with walking pneumonia, but that didn’t deter the Fargo South senior from wanting to go to swim practice.

“I literally told him as a coach ‘You will not come to practice.’ ” South coach Ann Schuler said. “When he was sick he called, he wanted to make sure the team was alright and they had a good practice.”

Even though he had fluid in his lungs, had trouble breathing when he swam and said he felt “like a zombie” one week, Griggs wanted to stay in the pool.

“I hate missing practice,” Griggs said. “It feels kind of like you are just falling behind everyone.”

Griggs is rarely in the trail position. The Eastern Dakota Conference senior athlete of the year has the top times in five individual events entering the North Dakota state boys swim meet, which starts Friday in Grand Forks.

Griggs is the defending state champion in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. He earned a third title at last year’s state meet, swimming a leg on South’s 200 freestyle relay. He also won a 200 medley relay state title when he was a sophomore.

Griggs is slated to swim the 50 and 100 freestyle and on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays at this year’s state meet.

“It’s my last high school meet so it’s going to be emotional,” said Griggs, who said he wants to swim at a Division III college next year. “I just want to have as much fun as I can possibly have.”

Griggs’ value to the team goes beyond his talent. He is a respected leader. He often helps teammates with technique, diets and weight training, South junior Jake Reopelle said. Griggs is especially helpful when offering guidance to younger swimmers.

“He wants to make sure they know what they’re doing so they don’t feel so alone,” Reopelle said. “He’s one of the nicest guys on the team. He will help anyone.”

Reopelle added Griggs is also a master of giving the team “pump-up” speeches before competitions.

“He’s quiet until he has to be a team captain,” Schuler said. “He is really good at motivating the team. He really steps up. … He’s got magic in his fingers. They just believe in him that much.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513