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PHS girls’ swim team eyes state

A youthful Powell High School girls’ swim team will look to improve on a 2011 season which saw them finish 10th at state.

Head coach Luke Robertson said his 27-girl squad will only have 10 upperclassmen this season and will rely on their leadership plus an influx of young talent to stay competitive.

The team also has 10 sophomores and seven freshman.

The Panthers will look to the experience and influence of its four captains: juniors Lydia Allen and Baxter Heinert, and seniors Korrie Kalberer and Sarah Wurzel.

Robertson said he expects some of his freshmen to be real “difference-makers.” Many of the team’s freshmen and sophomores have USA Swimming backgrounds.

“The improvement potential with the freshmen is huge,” he said.

Robertson called last year’s finish at state “disappointing,” but said there was plenty of positives.

“Everyone improved from the beginning of last year,” he said.

This year’s team should be faster than last year’s, Robertson said, but he isn’t going to judge success solely on record. His primary goals as coach are to make them better swimmers and, ideally, qualify every swimmer for state.

“At the end of the day, did we improve?” Robertson said. “What can I do to get each kid to perform at their best?”

The quest for improvement began last week with the start of conditioning and practice.

The team is currently practicing twice a day at the Powell Aquatic Center, where they spend at least three hours in the pool.

Practices start with a round of stretching and exercises, followed by warm-up laps in the pool.

The team then separates into swimmers and divers, the latter of which there are only three.

Senior Hannah Sweet, sophomore Ashley Dillon and freshman Lexee Craig work with assistant coach Stephanie Warren on diving.

Robertson said a major goal this season is to send a diver to state, something PHS hasn’t done in three years.

Warren said qualifying a diver for state would be a matter of her getting consistent dives out of her three girls.

Robertson said the swim team is working on stroke technique and “lots of kicking – lots and lots of kicking” during the past couple weeks of conditioning.

The careful conditioning is another way in which the team can prevent injuries, Robertson said.

Robertson hopes to get swimmers qualified for state early in the season so as to be able to keep his team rested.

Swimmers can qualify for state in any meet of the season by beating a set time.

With a few swimmers coming back from injury-related surgeries, Robertson would like the option of limiting their workload after qualification.

Health will be another major focus this fall. Robertson is stressing better nutrition and more rest as ways to prevent the injury issues that plagued the team in previous seasons.

“You hate to back off training and fall behind other teams,” Robertson said.

Eating before and after practice is necessary to maintain high energy levels during practice and then recover afterwards.

“You have to refill the tank,” Robertson said.

Illness has also depleted teams in the past, and Robertson has urged swimmers to get eight hours of sleep a night and warned against sharing water bottles.

Robertson said he is excited for the team’s first meet, after which he’ll be able to better gauge the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Panthers begin their season at the Lander Invitational in Lander this Saturday at 11 a.m.

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