The Powell High School girls’ swimming and diving team defied expectations over the weekend in Laramie, overcoming nagging illnesses and youthful inexperience to finish second at the 3A State Swimming and Diving Championships.
Senior Caitlyn Miner earned All-State honors for her second-place finish in the 50 freestyle, breaking her own school record in the preliminaries with a time of 24.92.
Lander won the state title with 279 points, followed by Powell with 172 and Buffalo with 154. Lyman rounded out the top four with 139 points.
“Last year, we scored 159 points for third place and we were 163 points behind Lander,” said PHS head coach Bob Smartt. “This year, with scoring 172 points, we were able to narrow the Lander gap to 107 points. It was gratifying to have 11 of our 12 athletes at state place in an individual event and earn points for the team.”
Miner’s time of 55.53 seconds in the 100 freestyle was good for a third-place finish, and now ranks her third on the Powell Hall of Fame board.
“The coaches had a hard time deciding upon the best individual events for Caitlyn Miner at state as she was ranked second or third in five different events,” Smartt said. “Unfortunately, missing two weeks of practice late in the season due to pneumonia narrowed her options at state.”
The senior ends her career with school records in the 100 breaststroke, 50 freestyle and 200 medley and freestyle relays. In addition, she has HOF standings in the 200 freestyle (fifth), 200 individual medley (third), 100 backstroke (third) and 100 fly (second).
It was a record-breaking meet in many respects for the Lady Panthers, especially for the relay teams. The 200 freestyle relay team of Madison Lowery, Katrina Twitchell, Miner and Elizabeth Liggett broke the oldest school record in the books (set in 1993 by Kristy Johnson, Renee Johnson, Jennie Parsons and Christy Christiansen). This year’s time of 1:44.75 beat the old record by just a tenth of a second.
Smartt noted that Liggett had just wrapped up a third-place finish in the 500 freestyle (5:49.04) two races before the 200 freestyle relay, swimming on little rest.
“It takes extra character to stand up and race the 200 free relay with only one heat of rest after swimming the 500 free at 7,220 feet of elevation,” he said.
Liggett said she thought the meet went well.
“I was happy to place at state with the times I swam and relays I was on,” Liggett said. “Our second-place finish was well-deserved. Everyone on the team worked so hard for this accomplishment, and persevered through the tough altitude change, which made breathing more difficult.”
The team dedicated the record attempt to Twitchell, a senior swimming in her final high school meet.
“The team really wanted to get her [Twitchell’s] name on the board,” Smartt said. “I joked with the coaching staff that we only wanted to break the record by a little, so that it would be easier to break next year.”
The Lady Panthers’ 200 medley relay team of Sidney O’Brien, Anna Fuller, Miner and Madison Lowery finished in fourth place with a time of 1:58.10, just 0.21 seconds behind the third place team from Worland.
“The Panthers’ finals swim was a nice 3.4-second improvement from the conference meet,” Smartt said.
Twitchell missed winning the consolation final in the 100 freestyle by just 0.04 seconds, swimming it in 57.77 seconds for eighth place and narrowly missing HOF recognition in the event.
The 500 freestyle was the highest scoring individual event for the Lady Panthers, with Liggett in third (5:49.04), Addison Moretti winning the consolation final for seventh in 5:52.39 and Fuller placing ninth in 5:56.88.
“Elizabeth [Liggett] passed [2017 state runner-up] Sheridan Mathis of Douglas in the last 100 yards and Makenna Lambert of Buffalo in the last 150 yards,” Smartt said.
Moretti, meanwhile, “had one of the largest place improvements of the meet,” the coach said. She went from 11th in preliminaries (6:01.14) to seventh in finals in 5:52.39 — “a time that would have been fifth place in the championship final,” Smartt noted.
In diving, Emma Karhu moved up a spot in the finals to place fourth with 309.70 points. Maddi Hackenberg placed ninth with a personal-best score of 296.50.
“The three athletes who finished ahead of Emma [Karhu] will not compete next year, as two are seniors and one represents Jackson,” which will move to Class 4A next year, Smartt said.
Dive coach Heather Christensen was voted the Class 3A Assistant Coach of the Year.
Other notable performances included sophomore Madison Lowery’s 26.15 in the 50 freestyle preliminaries, which puts her in fifth place on the HOF board. In the 200 freestyle event, Liggett placed fourth (2:08.75) and Moretti moved up two positions in finals to 10th place with a time of 2:12.25.
In the 200 individual medley, Sidney O’Brien took 10th (2:37.08) and Rachel Kuntz was 11th in 2:39.94.
Ashlyn Aguirre finished 11th in the 100 butterfly (1:09.28), while Sidney O’Brien climbed the podium by placing sixth in the 100 backstroke in 1:06.64.
Anna Fuller won the consolation final for seventh place in the 100 breaststroke in 1:15.27.
“[Fuller’s] preliminaries time of 1:14.79 was a 1.4 second personal best and represents a 6.4 second improvement on the year,” Smartt said.
Heading into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, Powell had a 27-point margin over Buffalo for second position in the team standings. As only a disqualification could prevent a second place finish, the coaches mandated “extreme conservatism” on the relay exchanges between Twitchell, Liggett, Moretti and Fuller.
The team took fifth in 3:54.87, only 0.31 seconds out of third place, Smartt said. Twitchell, Liggett and Moretti all posted their fastest 100 free relay splits ever, while Fuller’s time “was commendable given her short rest after her 100 breaststroke swim,” Smartt said.
With his second season as Powell’s head coach now in the books, Smartt said he’s encouraged by the team’s success, as well as the number of swimmers returning.
“With only two graduating seniors, we can be optimistic about the team’s future,” he said. “While we will greatly miss super seniors Caitlyn Miner and Katrina Twitchell, new swimmers are the life-blood of our team and we must make strong efforts to have a large freshman class next year.”
Liggett agreed, and said she hopes a bright future will ensure the return of Smartt next season.
“Coach Bob told us that with all the hard-working athletes from this season, along with a strong group of freshmen joining the team next year, the success of our swim team will be boosted,” she said. “We all hope Coach Bob will return, considering the outstanding work and dedication he has put into our team.”
1. Lander 279, 2. Powell 172, 3. Buffalo 154, 4. Lyman 139, 5. Worland 137, 6. Jackson 110, 7. Sublette 92, 8. Cody 77, 9. Riverton 64, 10. Douglas 54, 11. Kemmerer 50, 12. Newcastle 32, 13. Rawlins 16
200 Medley Relay
4. Sidney O’Brien, Anna Fuller, Caitlyn Miner, Madison Lowery 1:58.10
4. Elizabeth Liggett 2:08.75, 10. Addison Moretti 2:12.25
200 Individual Medley
10. Sidney O’Brien 2:36.33, 11. Rachel Kuntz 2:42.38
2. Caitlyn Miner 25.02, 12. Madison Lowery 26.75
1 Meter Diving
4. Emma Karhu 309.70, 9. Maddi Hackenberg 296.5
11. Ashlyn Aguirre 1:09.28
3. Caitlyn Miner 55.93, 8. Katrina Twitchell 57.77
3. Elizabeth Liggett 5:49.04, 7. Addison Moretti 5:52.39, 9. Anna Fuller 5:56.88
200 Freestyle Relay
3. Madison Lowery, Katrina Twitchell, Caitlyn Miner, Elizabeth Liggett 1:44.75
6. Sidney O’Brien 1:06.64
7. Anna Fuller 1:15.27
400 Freestyle Relay
5. Katrina Twitchell, Elizabeth Liggett, Addison Moretti, Anna Fuller 3:54.87