The Panthers claimed second place after winning three conference races, and finishing second, third and fourth in a plethora of others. Only one individual event final, the 100 breaststroke, was void of Panthers, while one other (1 meter diving) didn’t include a Panther in its top four.
Senior Jarred LaPierre was named the 3A West Swimmer of the Meet for his performance in the meet’s final events. LaPierre won both of his individual events, the 200 and 500 free races.
Rodriguez said he wasn’t expecting LaPierre to swim such a fast time in the 200.
“A lot of it is having everybody there cheering for him,” Rodriguez said. “I think that really helped him.”
Seeded third behind teammate Ben Wetzel and presumed favorite Darren Pursel of Lander, LaPierre cut three seconds from his preliminary time and 1.52 seconds off his best time to overtake Pursel and win by an impressive 1.96 second margin.
A week after swimming the third-fastest 500 free time in Panthers history, LaPierre, again seeded third, took first with a time of 5:21.42.
On LaPierre’s heels during both races was sophomore Ben Wetzel, who took third in the 200 (just .29 seconds behind Pursel) and second in the 500 (3.08 seconds behind LaPierre).
“That was kind of a pleasant surprise,” Rodriguez said, adding that Wetzel does have a history of vast improvements at the end of seasons.
The LaPierre-Wetzel combo wasn’t the only point-hording one-two punch the Panthers featured.
Junior Nic Tracy and sophomore Billy Baker claimed the top two spots in the 100 back. Tracy’s time of 1:00.16 and Baker’s of 1:01.76 were both new personal bests.
Tracy finished in a tie for second in the 200 IM with a time of 2:18.10, a personal improvement of 2.85 seconds.
Sophomore Alex Bjornestad was close behind in both the IM, where he finished fourth thanks to a nearly seven second time cut (he set a personal best time of 2:21.42 in the prelims), and the 100 back, where he was fifth with a time of 1:03.74.
Junior Jakob Bowers was Powell’s top finisher in both the 100 fly, in which he was third, and the 50 free, in which he finished fourth. Bowers’ time of 1:01.18 in the 100 fly prelims was his fastest ever in the event.
Baker placed sixth in the 50 free finals with a time of 25.04, a day after setting a personal best time of 24.82 in the prelims.
Junior Edward Oursler earned another top-three finish for Powell, his coming in the 100 free. Oursler saved his best for the finals, swimming a career-best 53.18 on his way to third place.
“That’s one of the fastest (100 free) times I’ve had since I’ve been coaching boys’ high school swimming,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez praised Oursler’s infectious work ethic.
“He’s the hardest worker we got on the team,” he said. “I just can’t come up with a hard enough practice for him.”
Junior Quin Wetzel finished fifth in the 100 fly with a personal best time of 1:04.99. Wetzel initially thought he had finished sixth, but after double-checking, meet officials determined he had actually finished ahead of Kemmerer’s Torin Boyd.
Quin Wetzel was one of two Powell divers competing this weekend. Junior Jake Magill finished seventh out of 10 divers, and Wetzel finished ninth. For Magill, it was his best performance in an 11-dive competition.
Junior Dan Liggett and freshman Seth Fuller were both successfully able to use the final meet of the season to qualify for state.
Liggett’s 200 free time of 2:13.75 was the ninth fastest during Friday’s prelims, and a personal improvement of 6.63 seconds. He finished ninth overall during Saturday’s finals.
Fuller needed a bit more luck to earn his qualification. After coming .71 seconds short of qualifying in the 100 free during the prelims, Fuller found himself as the first alternate going into the final heats. It wasn’t until a Cody swimmer was scratched that Fuller got a second shot, Rodriguez said. Sliding into the 12th seed, Fuller finished in 59.56, which qualified him for state and bumped him to ninth overall.
Swimmers that placed in the top three in final heats were given All-Conference awards. Powell’s winners were LaPierre (200 free, 500 free), Ben Wetzel (200 free, 500 free), Tracy (200 IM, 100 back), Baker (100 back), Bowers (100 fly), Oursler (100 free) and the 400 free relay team of Ben Wetzel, Bjornestad, Baker and Tracy.
All-Conference honorable mentions were given to swimmers who placed fourth through sixth in final heats. Bjornestad (200 IM, 100 back), Baker (50 free) and Quin Wetzel (100 fly) were named honorable mentions from Powell.
Following the meet, Rodriguez was named 3A West assistant coach of the year. All awards were voted on by the coaches in attendance.
“It’s quite an honor,” Rodriguez said. “I just coach the swimmers, that’s what I know.”
3A West Conference meet results: Lander - 382.5, Powell - 275.5, Kemmerer - 181, Lyman - 167, Cody - 131, Sublette County - 123.