The Panthers were down by two points to the rival Cody Fillies entering into the meet’s final event. Powell finished eighth overall in the 400 free relay, two spots ahead of Cody, for just enough to leapfrog the Panthers into sixth place.
Powell’s team was off to a fast start but faced a challenge when freshman Taryn Bohlman’s goggles slipped off almost immediately after diving in to swim the third leg of the relay.
With her eyes shut tight Bohlman continued to blindly swim, keeping pace with the other teams as she left the Panther anchor, sophomore Gretchen Moretti, in good position to close the race.
Powell finished two points ahead of Cody and just one and one-half points behind fifth-place Worland.
Jackson took home the state title with 288.5 points, followed by Lander (229), Buffalo (174) and Rawlins (143).
Powell’s top six finish was a major improvement from last year’s 11th place finish, said head coach Luke Robertson.
Freshman Amanda Tracy and sophomore Gretchen Moretti were the only two Panthers to advance to Saturday’s final heats of their individual events.
Tracy took fourth overall in the 100 free with a time of 58.08 and fifth overall in the 200 free with a time of 2:05.52. Moretti’s time of 2:32.33 was good for sixth overall in the 200 IM. Moretti also finished first in the consolation heat of the 100 yard breaststroke, finishing in 1:16.98 for seventh overall.
Three Panthers, (freshman Tristan Bohlman and sophomores SarahJean O’Neill and Stephanie Liggett) advanced from Friday’s preliminaries to Saturday’s consolation heats in at least one of their individual events.
Bohlman won her heat in the 100 back with a time of 1:08.67 for a seventh-overall finish. She took 10th overall in the 100 fly with a time of 1:09.87.
O’Neill was 10th overall in the 100 breast, finishing in 1:19.45, and 11th overall in the 200 IM with her time of 2:38.39. Liggett’s time of 1:10.40 was 11th best overall in the 100 back.
Powell had four alternates for Saturday’s finals events. Juniors Lydia Allen (200 IM) and Hannah Sweet (diving) were first alternates. Sophomores Liggett (100 fly) and Natalie Quillen (100 back) were second alternates.
Robertson said the five Panthers who competed only in the preliminaries deserve recognition for their hard work and for qualifying for state.
Allen, junior Katelyn Lang (100 breast), Quillen, sophomore Devin Rausch (500 free) and Sweet all qualified for state but were unable to finish in the top 12 of their respective events.
This meet was the last for the team’s two qualifying seniors – Sarah Wurzel and Courtenay Zorgati.
Wurzel competed in the 100 back and the 400 free relay. Zorgati competed in the 100 breast, 200 IM, 400 free relay and 200 free relay. Neither advanced beyond the preliminary rounds in their individual events but both swam in relays on Saturday and provided necessary leadership to a young team.
“When you have a team that skews young you need people to set an example,” Robertson said.
Robertson said all four Panther seniors (Lori Hetzel and Korrie Kalberer did not qualify for state) have been leaders this year, showing the younger swimmers simple but important things like “this is how we behave on a bus, this is how we stretch for a meet.”
Each of Powell’s five swimmers who competed in individual final or consolation events were freshmen or sophomores, hinting at a strong future for the Panthers swim program.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of success in the next couple years,” Robertson said.
But Robertson’s pride is focused on his current team, not only for placing sixth at state but for consistently having swimmers cut time throughout the year.
“(And) not just the fact that we finished so well at state but the fact that we took a lot more qualifiers than we have in the past,” he said.