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Tom Mix, Published March 29 2014

Four members of the F-M Gators swimming club to compete at the national level


The F-M Gators swimming club quartet of Maddie Derby, Ellie Roche, Hallie Peterson and Erin Slack have posted standout performances the last year in pools across North Dakota.

Next week, each will try to replicate that success on a national platform.

Derby, Roche, Peterson and Slack are headed to Greensboro, N.C., to compete in the YMCA Short Course National Swim Meet. The meet – featuring over 1,400 swimmers from across the country – runs Tuesday through Friday and is held at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.

The meet’s qualifying period ran from March 1 of 2013 to March 24, 2014.

“It is a whole other level of competition,” said F-M Gators head coach Talia Butery. “The kids that go there from North Dakota are some of the best swimmers from our state and are in the middle of the pack. I think it is really good for them. It keeps them hungry, it keeps them aggressive and it keeps their head on straight knowing there is always another level they can aspire to.”

Derby (senior), Roche (junior) and Slack (sophomore) are from Fargo North High School. Peterson, a sophomore, swims at West Fargo High School and joined the Gators last May. Roche and Derby are veterans of the national meet, while Slack and Peterson are making their first trips.

“It is a really fun meet,” said Derby, who is also swimming the 100-yard backstroke, 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley. “I look forward to it every single year. Each year is different and overall it is a great experience. It is another opportunity to achieve a better time in events. That is my goal; to get better times and set some personal records.”

Derby’s qualifying times in her individual events are 59.27 seconds (100 backstroke), 2 minutes, 8.72 seconds (200 backstroke) and 2:11.41 (200 IM).

Derby, Roche, Peterson and Slack qualified to swim the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:52.05 seconds and the 400 medley relay (3:58.53).

Roche, swimming in her fifth national meet, will be the busiest Gator in Greensboro. On top of the two relays, Roche is set to swim the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 100 butterfly, and 200 individual medley.

“Having more events is always great,” Roche said. “There are more chances to swim your best. There are so many more swimmers at this meet.

“It almost seems like you are racing yourself because the times are so similar.” Roche added. “There is a little more pressure and it’s a whole different atmosphere than swimming in North Dakota.”

Roche won the 200 IM and the 100 breaststoke last fall at the state swim meet. Roche’s qualifying times are: 1:06.22 (100 breaststroke), 2:27.20 (200 breaststroke), 59.03 (100 butterfly), 2:07.75 (200 IM).

Slack and Peterson each said they have drawn from the experiences of Derby and Roche to prepare for the meet.

“We have to stay positive and keep each other going,” Slack said of the team’s strategy to perform well. “It is exciting and it is going to be a great opportunity.”

Peterson finished third and fourth in the 100 and 200 freestyle, respectively, at the state meet and is swimming both at nationals. Her qualifying times are 53.09 (100 freestyle) and 1:55.41 (200 freestyle).

“This has always been one of my goals to go nationals,” Peterson said. “I’m really excited.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562