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January 29, 2009 3:51 am

Seniors to compete for last time in PHS pool

Written by Tribune Staff

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Senior swimmer Jackson Miller swam to first place in the backstroke during the Warrior Invitational in Worland last weekend. Miller has registered the fastest time among Wyoming 3A swimmers in the event so far this year.Tribune photo by Don Amend

Seven Powell High School Panther senior swimmers paused to reflect on their careers this week as they prepared for their final home swim meet, which will take place today (Thursday).

The seven, Roy Oursler, Jackson Miller, Anthony Quillen, Alex Speiser, Randy Bullinger, Jake Firnekas and Cody Thomas, along with Ty Barton, who wasn't at practice Tuesday, make up nearly half of the Panther swim team this season.


Some of them looked back on many years of work in the PHS pool and four years competing for Powell High School.

Others have completed only a few years with the squad, and their reasons for joining the team varied as well.

For Oursler and Quillen, their biggest reasons for joining the swim team stemmed from their families. Both started their careers at early ages — Oursler at 8 and Quillen at 11. Both swimmers stuck with swimming because of their parents' positive influence.

Speiser also indicated parental influence played a part in his swimming career. As a junior, he actually began the season in the wrestling room, but rejoined the swim team because his mother disapproved.

“My mom really hates wrestling,” Speiser said. “And anyway, the swim team was where my friends were.”

Jackson Miller, on the other hand, had a simple personal reason for joining the team as a freshman.

“I wanted to stay in shape,” Miller said.

Firnekas, who came to PHS as a freshman, said he had joined the team to “get to know people,” and Bullinger said he joined after he was cut from the basketball team.

Thomas, who joined the team only this year, said he had thought about swimming in previous years, and began practices last year.

“I tried to swim last year, but I just died,” Thomas said.

This year, he decided to stick it out.

The seven also cited a variety of benefits they had received from their time in the pool. Firnekas cited the physical benefit of “staying in shape,” while Bullinger cited the friendship of other team members.

Others cited life lessons learned through the competition.

“You learn that even if you train really hard, you can still lose,” Miller said.

Speiser, who has emerged as a top diver this year, said he learned the importance of concentration and focusing on each dive.

“You have to learn to never lose sight of your goal,” Speiser said. “You can't just go through the motions. If you do, you'll lose.”

A coaching change midway through their careers also was a learning experience, the swimmers said. As freshmen and sophomores, the four-year members of the team were coached by Tim Foley. Stephanie Warren and Jerry Rodriguez took over for their last two years, and their coaching styles were different.

“Coach Foley emphasized strength and power more,” said Oursler. “Jerry emphasizes technique and more finesse.”

Both methods had their good points, Oursler said.

This season their practice schedule was tougher, according to several of the swimmers. There were more morning practices, and they were required to practice more.

“We have seven mandatory practices a week this year,” Miller said.

None of the seven plans to continue competitive swimming after high school, but most of them said they will miss the competition and the camaraderie of being part of the team. Practices, though, are another story.

“I won't miss the practices,” Quillen said.

They won't have fond memories of some of the pools they have competed in, either, and after last week's competition in Worland, they were especially happy to leave that pool behind.

“We all cheered last week because we knew we didn't have to go to the Worland pool again,” Oursler said.

Although they will follow the team tradition and shave their heads before state, some of them will be happy to leave that behind as well.

“I'm glad it's the last time I have to shave my head,” Quillen said.

After Thursday's dual with Cody, the swimmers will travel to Lander for an invitational on Saturday. Next week they will cross the Big Horns for a dual with Buffalo and a trip to the Gillette Invitational to close out the regular season. The regional swim meet will follow Feb. 13-14 in Lander, followed two weeks later by state swimming Feb. 27-28 in Gillette.

The eight seniors will be honored by their coaches, teammates and parents following today's (Thursday's) meet.