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West Fargo Sheyenne swimmer Tierney Howell commits to University of Houston

Howell, who holds the North Dakota high school state record in the 100-yard butterfly, will swim at the NCAA Division I level.

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Tierney Howell of West Fargo Sheyenne competes in the 100-yard butterfly during a previous North Dakota high school girls state swim meet. Howell recently announced her commitment to the University of Houston.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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WEST FARGO — West Fargo Sheyenne swimmer Tierney Howell recently made her plans for her athletic and academic careers known as she made her verbal commitment to swim at the Division I University of Houston beginning in 2023.

“I am extremely excited,” Howell said. “I know that it is going to be a great place for me to keep improving and they have a great team atmosphere and I’m really excited to go there.”

While there were other schools she visited and was in contact with, the consistent interest from Houston — especially after visiting the campus — helped Howell make her decision.

“I think it was how patient and persistent they were without being too pushy,” she said of what set Houston apart from the other schools. “They were very amazing from the start. When I went there, I fell in love with the campus. I saw myself going there as a student first which I think is most important.”

For Howell — who is hoping to major in biology and follow the pre-med route — that comfort as a student was one of the most important aspects of her choice.

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“Swimming, I love it. It’s something I’m so excited to do in college,” she said. “But, I had to see myself enjoying (the school) if something were to happen where I couldn’t swim anymore.

“I saw myself there as a student first and then I fell in love with their team, their team atmosphere and everything they had going on I thought would take me in the right direction.”

Howell has been swimming since third grade, spending time with the West Fargo Flyers and Northern Lights Swim Association Marlins in Moorhead in addition to her time at Sheyenne, which began in seventh grade.

As she enters her final year of high school, she does so with mixed emotions.

“I’m super excited for everything ,but it’s also sad,” Howell said. “I just had my first swimming practice for this season today, but it’s also going to be my last first high school practice. It’s all kind of bittersweet. I’m excited for our first meet. It is our overnight meet which is going to be super fun for our team to get to know each other. I’m excited for our team to grow and push each other during practice and, hopefully, win a state title this year.”

Looking back on her time as part of the Mustangs’ swim team, Howell has much to be proud of both from a competitive standpoint in the pool and her approach to the sport out of the water.

“I’m proud of my attitude I’ve had,” she said. “I think it’s important to be a leader on your team and make sure everybody is (happy). If one person is down, that negative energy can drag everybody down so quickly. I think our team does a really great job making sure everybody is motivated and ready to go.”

In competition, Howell holds the state high school record in the 100-yard butterfly — which she set in 2020 with a time of 55.44 seconds — and won conference in the 50-yard freestyle as a member of the Mustangs. While she takes pride in those accomplishments, she is also proud of the team she has become so close with.

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“Those are both things I’m pretty proud of,” Howell said. “But, I’m proud of my team that I’ve grown with. They’re amazing people and I couldn’t have had a better team. They have pushed me, they have helped me and they are some of my best friends.”

From her coaches to her parents and teammates, Howell shared her appreciation for everybody who has helped her reach this point.

“I want to thank my coaches who have believed in me and pushed me when I didn’t want to be pushed. When it got hard, they were always there to back me up,” she said. “And my parents who gave me every opportunity I could ever need. They gave me everything to let me get to this point and they are great people.

“And my teammates who have motivated me through tough practices and built some of the best bonds I have ever had.”

Mustangs swim coach Erich Richardson — who also coached Howell years ago when she was on the Flyers — said Howell has made her presence felt since she first joined the Sheyenne team as a seventh grader and expected her to solidify her mark on North Dakota swimming this season.

“She’s basically made an impact since day one,” Richardson said. “This being her senior year, I think she has a lot of drive to show people what she can do and really leave her mark on the state. I know getting that state record from (former Minot High School swimmer) Dagny Knutson meant a lot to her. I think that’s a big driving force for her.”

Richardson has seen her drive to better herself first-hand.

“You couldn’t ask for a harder worker,” he said. “There have been times where she has to rest and I have to force her to rest, essentially, if that makes sense. She just has that drive to always be faster than she was and be better than she was and look at what ways she can make that happen.

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“She is a fantastic young athlete. She is everything you want as a coach. She is ready to work hard no matter what. I think with her drive, talent and skills she could do big things in college.”

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