Sheldon Hatlen has been a part of some top Rosemount swimming and diving squads. After growing and learning from his predecessors, the senior now is one of the main guys the team looks up to.

“We’ve had some great role models,” Hatlen said, “some great influences and great people to be around. Going through this transition into being captain has been a great experience. It’s taught me what it takes to be a leader.”

If not for some of the upperclassmen during Hatlen’s freshman year, he might never have decided to take swimming seriously.

Hatlen didn’t start swimming competitively until ninth grade, but he was a natural right off the blocks, so to speak. He qualified for sections, and everyone started encouraging him to focus more on training and club swimming.

“I was told I had the potential to be a state swimmer, and that really motivated me to pursue that new dream,” Hatlen said. “They were very nice about it. They were positive. I thought it was just a sweet gig.”

So he dedicated himself to the sport, and it has paid dividends. Hatlen placed seventh in the 100-yard freestyle at the Class 2A state meet last year. Heading into next weekend’s state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, he is ranked second in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle.

“I wasn’t expecting that for myself,” said Hatlen, who has received college interest, including from North Dakota.

Hatlen stands at 6-foot-3, prompting head coach Tami Carlson to call him “the Beast.”

“He’s actually one of our top swimmers in every event, but sprinting is definitely his strongest,” Carlson said. “He’s such a hard worker and leads by example. He really holds people accountable. People feel comfortable talking to him. He gets along great with everyone on the team.”

Despite losing a lot of talent to graduation, the Irish remain strong in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays this year. They placed second in the 200 relay and sixth in the 400 relay at state last year. Now they have some new faces in the lineup.

“I think we surprised ourselves,” Hatlen said. “At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t too confident because we lost so much depth last year. I didn’t think that this team was going to be able to pick itself up again. But just look at the times we’ve been laying out.”

Senior Andrew Urness is new to the 200, but a state veteran in the 400-yard freestyle relay and 500-yard freestyle. Sam Kendall, a junior, has stepped it up this year. Senior Kyle Bodine rounds out the group that hopes to break some records. The swimmers would like to maintain their No. 2 ranking in the 200-yard freestyle relay and also try to place in the top three in the 400.

Whatever happens, Hatlen believes it will all make for a special finale to a story that began four years ago.

“I think it will bring good closure,” Hatlen said. “It will be a good ending to my entire high school career.”