Head coach Luke Robertson said the 28 swimmers are top to bottom the most talented group he’s had in his five years of coaching in Powell.
The Panthers will get an idea just how good they can be when they compete against top Class 3A teams Jackson, Lander and Buffalo at the Lander Invitational Saturday.
“Those are the top three teams last year at state,” Robertson said. “So I guess we’ll find out this weekend right off the bat what we’re made of.”
By class, the Panthers are made of five seniors, seven juniors, seven sophomores and nine freshmen. Robertson said most of the freshmen are entering high school swimming with USA Swimming experience, which gives them a competitive advantage.
Senior swimmer Lindsay Kindred said the freshmen girls have come in and shown their talent right away.
“I know even some of the younger girls that have come up are already kicking my butt, so that’s awesome,” Kindred said. “I think the biggest factor in that is the Piranhas (Powell’s USA Swimming club) program.”
While the freshmen might have the skill, they will have to be able to maximize it under the pressure of meets.
Kindred said it will be up to her and other veteran Panthers to show them how things are done.
“Being a leader comes with being a senior,” Kindred said. “Also, being here for three years and going on your fourth year you know the ropes. It’s easier to show the girls what to do.”
Kindred said she wants the freshmen to relax, have fun and realize “it’s really not that scary going up against those bigger teams.”
Sophomore Amanda Tracy is just one summer removed from being a freshman, and said she feels more at ease coming into her second year as a Panther.
“We just know what to expect this year,” Tracy said on behalf of her fellow sophomores.
Tracy finished last season as Powell’s top swimmer. She took fourth in the 100 free and fifth in the 200 free at the Class 3A state meet in GIllette.
Despite the accomplishments Tracy said she was disappointed in her performance at state because she added time in her events.
Tracy has maintained her fitness level by swimming for the Piranhas this summer. She also competed at the Zone Swimming event in Fresno, Calif., July 31 to Aug. 4. The continuous work has Tracy feeling more prepared and confident now than at the same point last year.
“I think there’s a couple records I can break,” Tracy said before acknowledging, “It takes a lot of work to break records.”
The deeper roster may motivate more hard work as competition between teammates increases.
“It (the competition) pushes people harder in practice,” Tracy said.
Robertson said he hopes small improvements for each swimmer will raise the quality of the team as a whole.
“It’s a team sport but it’s also very much an individual sport,” Robertson said. “You focus on what the individuals can do and when the individuals get better the team gets better.
“If each kid sets their own goals and they improve, obviously that’s going to improve the overall team.”
Senior diver Hannah Sweet will look to do her part from the diving board.
Last season, after several near-misses, Sweet finally qualified for the state diving competition with only four meets remaining in the year.
Sweet would like to forgo the drama and qualify in one of this season’s early meets so she can work on more difficult dives.
“My goal is to qualify in Lander,” Sweet said.
Sweet thinks Powell’s only other diver, Lexee Craig, could join her at state this year.
“I think this is going to be a very promising season for Lexee and I both,” she said. “I think Powell will have two state qualifiers this year.”
Restrictions stemming from a pair of concussions Sweet suffered kept her from diving in the summer, making the first few practices a little strange.
“You get back on the board and (diving coach Stephanie) Warren will say (to) do something and all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Can I still do that? Do I even know how to do that?’” Sweet said.
She can, and she does.
“Diving is a mental game and if you don’t have a strong mental focus, it’s hard,” Sweet said. “You can’t be scared of it.”
Nor can the Panthers be scared of their opponents.
Though anxious to see how the Panthers stack up compared to some of the state’s elite, Robertson knows Powell can’t take over the swimming world overnight, nor can he concern himself too much with other schools.
“We control what we control,” Robertson said. “We can’t control what other teams do.”
State doesn’t begin until Halloween, but Saturday’s meet in Lander will be a good indication of what tricks and treats the Panthers hand out this season.
“In some ways the first meet is the most exciting,” Robertson said. “You don’t know what you have until you get to compare them to the other teams, so that’s pretty exciting.”