Next level

—Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Fort Dodge senior Cole Pearson has signed his letter of intent to swim for the University of South Dakota.

Cole Pearson knew he wanted to continue his swimming career at the highest possible level.

And once the Fort Dodge Senior High senior saw what the University of South Dakota had to offer, he was sold.

Pearson recently signed with the Coyotes for the upcoming fall season.

“The biggest deciding factor was all of the people that were there,” Pearson said. “Whether it was on the swim team or in the classes I went to. Of course, there was other things like the location and obviously the swim team that was there.

“My goal was to find a place where I could have a ton of great people around me.”

A 10-time state qualifier for the Dodgers, Pearson found everything he wanted with South Dakota, who is a member of the Summit League. The Coyotes, who are coached by Jason Mahowald, have competed at the Hawkeye Invite hosted by the University of Iowa this past year.

Pearson plans to stick to the same events that he has dominated in high school upon arriving in South Dakota including the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free and 100 back.

“In college you are more than just a swimmer that can go in any event because so many people have their ‘main’ events to focus on,” Pearson said. “I am there as a swimmer and if they need me in a different event, then that’s what I will do.”

At the state meet last year, Pearson finished ninth in the 100 free (47.43) and was part of the 10th-place 400 free relay. He also finished 15th in the 200 free (1:45.16) and swam on the 200 free relay that was 20th.

As a sophomore, Pearson competed on the seventh-place 200 free relay and ninth-place 400 free relay, along with swimming the 100 back (19th) and 200 free (16th). His ninth-grade year, Pearson was on the 400 free (13th) and 200 free (17th) state relays.

“I don’t think that swimming at the D1 level was ever a goal for me,” he said. “I have always wanted to go and swim at the next level, and D1 is the highest you can go. My main goal for wherever I ended up was to try my hardest and keep working to be the best I can be.”

So far this year, Pearson has posted the second-fastest 50 free time in the state at 22.16 and the fifth-best 100 free time at 49.09.

“This season is going to be a crazy ride with some high expectations for myself,” Pearson said. “I am shooting for a few of the school records and some great placings at state. Now that I have gotten everything figured out with college, it’s time to just work on myself and help out the team.”

Pearson also considered Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota before opting to become a Coyote.

He joins former Dodger swimmers Lehr Thorson (Iowa State), Taylor Hartley (Iowa) and Andrew Fierke (Iowa) to be competing at the Div. I level.