Dodgers set to host Winkler Invite

For the Fort Dodge girls swim team, tonight’s fourth annual Gary Winkler Invitational is sure to provide another challenging test.

Action begins at 3:30 p.m. with the diving competition. Swimming will then start at 6 p.m. with all timed finals.

Joining the host Dodgers in the water are Algona, Boone, Perry, Sioux City North, Spencer, Storm Lake and Waterloo West.

“Our goal is to get as many swimmers on the podium as possible,” FDSH head coach Rosie Ellendson said. “We’re ready to go and look forward to competing (this evening). After being in some of the different pools, our girls think we have one of the best pools in the state.”

Sioux City Metro easily captured the team title here in 2012, accumulating 374 points. Waterloo West (219) settled for a runner-up effort, while Fort Dodge (181) placed fifth.

In their previous outing on Tuesday, the Dodgers dropped a 146-35 decision at top-ranked and three-time defending state champion Ames.

Junior Elli Russell (100 backstroke), senior Lauren Underwood (100 breaststroke), the 200 medley relay (Russell, Underwood, senior Shay Saathoff and freshman Lehr Thorson) and the 200 freestyle relay (Thorson, Russell, freshman Gretta Leigh and Underwood) highlight the top events for FDSH.

“I think we’re going to be strong in the 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke,” said Ellendson. “Both (the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay) races could be really powerful, too.

“Waterloo West and Sioux City North will probably be in the running for first and second again (in the team race).”

Spencer junior Taylor Sieperda is tied for the second fastest time in the state this season in the 50 freestyle (24.75), while also ranking third in the 100 backstroke (59.99) and ninth in the 100 freestyle (54.90). Boone’s Haiden Jennings, a junior, also owns the state’s fifth best mark in 1M Diving (252.95).

Ellendson is optimistic her squad can benefit from the familiar surroundings.

“It’s very nice and appropriate to honor Mr. Winkler,” Ellendson said. “I know he was a great coach at Fort Dodge for (25 years), so this is a great tribute to him.”