Future looks bright for PHS swim program
The Powell High School girls’ swim team took third at the 3A State Swim and Dive Championships in Gillette over the weekend, with swimmers placing in the top six in seven individual events and two relays.
“I could not be more proud of the entire team,” said PHS head coach Bob Smartt.
As a team, Powell took third with 159 points. Worland came in second with 176 and Lander won the state title with 322 points.
The 200 medley relay is the first event, and during Thursday’s preliminary heats, Powell’s relay team — JuliaKay O’Neill, Caitlyn Miner, Rylie Kannard and Aspen Aguirre — was disqualified when Kannard’s goggles fell off during the race and she made an illegal motion with her hands to catch/adjust them. That kept the team from advancing to Friday’s finals (for the top six finishers) or semifinals (for the seventh through 12th place finishers), but the Lady Panthers bounced back.
“After the initial setback of being disqualified in prelims, our medley relay team displayed high character athlete behavior,” said Smartt.
Miner and Kannard went on to place third and fifth respectively in the 100 butterfly. Miner swam it in 1:04.04, a 0.28-second improvement and 0.2 seconds away from the winning time; Kannard swam the race in 1:05.92.
“My team made it easier, Bob [Smartt] made it easier to just not focus on it and ‘just let it go,’” Kannard said of the disqualification.
“Sometimes you mess up, but you just got to let it go so you can perform better later on,” Miner added.
Kannard also placed fifth in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:03.82.
Kannard’s preliminary times of 1:05.34 in the 100 butterfly and 1:03.43 in the 100 backstroke (just hundredths of a second faster than her final times) now rank her as the third fastest in school history in those events, earning her a position on the Hall of Fame Board.
“I think the freshmen have a lot to look forward to; definitely don’t think records are going to be staying on the record board very long if [Smartt] stays for our coach,” said Kannard, a senior. “I think it’s just going to change constantly which is awesome. I think we have a bright future ahead of our team.”
Miner made it the highest on the podium for the Panthers with her second place finish in the 100 breaststroke in 1:10.13. That earned her All State honors. Miner’s time also bumped her into the No. 1 position on the Hall of Fame Board. The previous record was set by Jeri Hetzel in 1997 with a time of 1:10.86.
JuliaKay O’Neill placed third in the 100 backstroke (1:03.41), and in the diving competition she finished with a flourish in her last three dives to improve from 10th to seventh place with a score of 285.85.
Aspen Aguirre won the semifinals and took seventh place with personal bests in both the 50 free (26.28) and the 100 backstroke (1:05.61).
“All four swimmers showed courage, heart and resiliency in not giving up after an initial disappointment,” Smartt said.
Of the rest of the performances at state, Smartt said the PHS freshmen “provide great optimism for the future.”
Emma Karhu placed fifth in diving with a score of 310.35. Three of the four athletes who finished ahead of her were graduating seniors.
Addison Moretti took 12th in the 200 free with a time of 2:16.45 and 11th in the 500 free, posting a time of 6:07.33.
“[Moretti] was improving so rapidly at the end of the season that I was unsure what would be her best events at state,” Smartt said.
Fellow freshman Elizabeth Liggett fought off illness to place 10th in the 200 IM, finishing in 2:35.29.
Sophomore Anna Fuller took the eighth position in the 200 IM, and her sixth place finish in the 200 free (5:56.96) was the biggest improvement by an athlete in the meet from her seed time of 6:31.15. Another sophomore, Ashlyn Aguirre, placed ninth in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:09.17.
Junior Katrina Twitchell broke the 1 minute barrier in the 100 freestyle with a time of 59.96, good for 10th.
Two PHS relay teams — the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle — also made the podium. The 200 freestyle relay team, comprised of Twitchell, Miner, Sidney O’Brien and Kendyl Bohlman finished fifth with a time of 1:46.94, about a second and half faster than their prelim time.
The 400 freestyle relay of Twitchell, Bohlman, O’Neill and Aspen Aguirre finished third with a time of 4:01.80, a drastic improvement from the prelim time of 4:06.50.
The Powell High School swim team will be graduating five seniors this year: O’Neill, Kannard, Sydney Horton, Aspen Aguirre and Bohlman.
O’Neill, who began swimming at age 6, was emotional about her high school career swimming ending.
“It’s a really big part of me and it’s made me who I am today,” she said. “It’s taught me a lot of lessons.”
Horton said that “it was a good season; I took a lot of time off.” Having qualified for state for the first time, Horton swam in the 200 freestyle placing 21st with a time of 2:23.78.
Bohlman said she also “cut a lot of time off this season compared to seasons past.”
“I think the differences between my freshman year and senior year are just tremendous,” Kannard said. “Sad to be leaving, but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.”
“The work we put in this season definitely paid off and it gave the younger girls a lot to look forward to I think,” Aspen Aguirre said.
All of the seniors also wanted to thank all the coaches who have helped them along the way, including but not limited to Jerry Rodriguez and Luke Robertson.
“We had a great year — lots of great swims, fast times, great dives,” said assistant coach and dive coach Heather Christensen. “We just had a lot of improvement from day one to the finish.”