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July 23, 2013 9:01 am

Piranhas crown two state champs, one runner-up

Written by Dante Geoffrey

The Powell Swim Club boasted two state champions and a runner-up at the 2013 Wyoming Summer Longcourse Championships in Gillette last weekend.

The Piranhas finished 10th overall in the 16-team field, a strong showing given they brought only seven swimmers to compete.

“To win five events is pretty good for Powell,” said head coach Jerry Rodriguez.

Josh Wright, 10, was Powell’s top performer. Victories in the 50 breast, 100 breast, 50 back and 100 back, plus second-place finishes in the 100 free and 400 free showcased more promise from the Piranhas’ young rising star.

“There were a lot of 10-year-old swimmers,” Rodriguez said. “To dominate so many events is not that common.”

Rodriguez said Wright was confident and calm throughout the meet. When asked if he’d win his next event, Rodriguez said Wright would respond with a straightforward, “Yup.”

Wright also finished third in the 50 free and 200 free, and fourth in the 50 fly. Each of his first-place times were personal bests once converted from 50 meters to 25 yards.

Amanda Tracy, 15, was the state’s best in the 200 back. Her time of 2:42.99 was 6.79 seconds faster than her time in the same event last week in Buffalo.

Rodriguez said being indoors and having stronger competition kept Tracy moving.

“The people she was swimming against were close enough and pushing her,” Rodriguez said.

Tracy was the runner-up in the 200 IM, 200 free and 100 back. She finished third in the 50 and 100 free, fourth in the 400 IM and seventh in the 100 breast. She was only .05 seconds out of second in the 100 free.

Edward Oursler, 17, was the third and final Piranha to swim a top-three race. Oursler raced to a second-place finish in the 400 free with a time of 5:34.42. He also finished seventh in the 200 free and ninth in the 200 IM.

Rodriguez said Oursler didn’t want to compete in the 400 free and instead focus on sprints. But with no other events to race at that time, he gave it a go and was runner-up.

In her first trip to a state competition, Elizabeth Liggett, 10, proved she belonged by placing fourth in the 100 breast.

“That’s her favorite event so she was really looking forward to that one,” Rodriguez said.

Her time of 1:51.83 was just 2.13 seconds behind the pace needed to finish in the top three.

Rodriguez said Elizabeth was affected by her nerves when the team first arrived at state.

“She really rolled with it after things got going,” Rodriguez said. “I think she had a really good time down there.”

Elizabeth also reached the finals in the 200 free, in which she finished 12th.

Stephanie Liggett, 15, set an example for little sister Elizabeth by recording four top-10 finishes. Stephanie finished seventh in the 100 fly, eighth in both the 100 and 200 back, and 10th in the 200 IM.

Stephanie missed a couple weeks of practice last month due to illness, which may have affected her times at state.

“That put her back a little bit, but she’s been working pretty hard since she’s got back,” Rodriguez said. “There’s only so much you can do in a short time.”

Alex Bjornestad, 16, qualified for state only last week in Buffalo, his return to USA Swimming. He made only the 100 back final but finished sixth.

“He didn’t really join USA (Swimming) ’til the middle of summer,” Rodriguez said. “He didn’t get a whole lot of training going in, but he swam some pretty good times.”

Rodriguez said Bjornestad is using the state tournament as motivation heading into the high school season.

“It really fired him up, too,” Rodriguez said. “Before high school boys’ season he’s going to start a lot earlier getting in shape.”

Kacey Creed, 13, struggled at his first state meet against older swimmers. Creed reached the 13-14 age group in April, and will have to work to adjust to the speed of competition, his coach said. His top finish was 16th place in the 100 free preliminaries.

The Powell Piranhas will continue to practice until the summer season winds down. Winter season begins Sept. 8.

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