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September 11, 2012 7:51 am

Girls’ swim team shines at home

Written by Dante Geoffrey

The crowd roared and the water was turbulent at the Powell Aquatic Center on Saturday, as the hometown Panthers were cheered to a third place finish at the Gene Dozah Invitational.

Jackson Hole took first with 320 points, followed by Lander-233, Powell-228, Buffalo-163, Cody-157, Riverton-109 and Worland-90.

“I thought we swam and dove very well at the Dozah Invite,” said Powell High School swim coach Luke Robertson. “We had several new qualifiers and several significant time cuts. We currently have 12 girls that have qualified for state with about half of the season left.”

The Panthers were in second place going into the day’s final event, but were overtaken by Lander during the 400 freestyle relay.

Saturday’s five-hour meet was emotional at times, with many hugs exchanged after triumphs and near-misses.

Junior captain Baxter Heinert found a bit of vindication in the heavy air surrounding the pool.

Heinert took first in two events at the Panthers’ 119-67 victory in Worland on Thursday, an accomplishment she found equal parts rewarding and frustrating.

Baxter finished with a time of 28.69 in the 50 free, just .19 seconds shy of qualifying for state.

“When I got up and I looked at it I forgot what the qualifying time was but when I saw it I was like ‘oh my gosh!’” Heinert said.

Just four events later Heinert took first place in the 500 free, the longest race of the evening. Her time of 6:44.14 was just 6.14 seconds off the qualifying pace, or, about a half-second per lap.

Heinert got a surprise in Worland when Robertson asked her to make an adjustment on her flip turns in order to cut her times. She said it’s a tough adjustment to make but ultimately just a matter of repetition.

“It’s challenging because it’s so much different but I’ll keep working on it and get it down,” she said. “I’ll practice during the 500 because I have a lot of flip turns.”

The practice must have paid off quickly because it took only two days for Heinert to make a .29 second improvement and qualify in the 50 free on Saturday.

She also qualified in the 100 free, one place and one half-second in front of fellow qualifier, Taryn Bohlman.

Two other Panthers captains had strong performances on Saturday. Senior Sarah Wurzel qualified in the 500 free and the 100 back and senior Lydia Allen qualified in the 100 butterfly and came just 1.32 seconds short of doing the same in the 200 IM.

Bohlman and Amanda Tracy qualified in two events each at Worland, one of which — the 200 IM —  they finished in first and second place, respectively, and were followed by Powell’s Devin Rausch for the sweep.

Tracy also qualified with a second place finish in the 100 butterfly and Bohlman did the same with a victory in the 100 backstroke.

SarahJean O’Neill led a trio of narrow misses in the 100 free. O’Neill, Courtenay Zorgati and Sarah Wurzel finished one-two-three, all within a half-second of each other and less than one second off the qualifying time.

Zorgati, a senior, qualified in the 100 breast stroke in Worland. Zorgati hopes there’s many more to come.

“My goal for the season is to qualify in everything,” she said.

Last year Zorgati qualified in every event but three – the 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 50 free.

Zorgati was .41 seconds short of qualifying in the 100 free on Saturday.

Sophomore Stephanie Liggett was one of the standouts in Worland. Liggett has been involved in competitive swimming for only two years, but she is quickly making up for lost time and qualified for two events on Thursday.

“I had always wanted to swim but where we lived before it wasn’t really possible,” Liggett said.

It’s more than possible now, as Liggett proved by finishing second in the 100 breast stroke and 100 butterfly. She had already qualified in the 200 IM in the first meet of the season in Lander.

Liggett moved to Powell three years ago from Southern California. When the Powell Aquatic Center was built Liggett jumped — or dove — at the opportunity to swim.

After just two years of USA Swimming, Liggett is making an impact during her first season for the Panthers.

“Stephanie is making some significant contributions to our team not only at meets but at practice as well,” Robertson said. “Not only has she qualified for state in several events but she continues to cut time at nearly every meet.”

Liggett’s coaches feel she is a perfect example of how significant progress can be made through dedication.

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