Powell didn’t win any of the 12 events but still scored 237 team points, which was second only to host Jackson’s 418. It was the Panthers’ highest conference finish in Luke Robertson’s six-year tenure as head coach.
“One of the big takeaways is the fact that we beat (five West teams),” Robertson said. “It’s been a while since we’ve ended up second in conference.”
The Panthers added no new qualifiers in Jackson and will head to state with 14 qualified swimmers and one diver.
Sophomore Amanda Tracy was the runner-up in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:05.61. Tracy also finished fifth in the 100 free with a time of 58.47.
Junior SarahJean O’Neill also took a second-place finish in Jackson. O’Neill’s time of 1:15.90 was second-best in the 100 breast and more than a second and a half faster than third place. It was also a 1.79 second cut from her seed time, the largest cut of any Panther who advanced to the finals. O’Neill was also 11th in the 100 free with a time of 1:02.15.
Junior Stephanie Liggett took third place in the 200 IM with a time of 2:30.83, but swam a personal best 2:30.77 in the preliminaries. Fellow junior Gretchen Moretti finished two spots behind Liggett with a time of 2:36.26. Moretti reached the final heat of the 100 breast and swam a 1:18.42 to take fifth place.
Liggett later tied for fourth in the 100 fly with teammate Baxter Heinert. Each Panther swam a time of 1:09.11.
Heinert, a senior, finished eighth in the 100 back, just .28 seconds behind sixth place and .38 seconds faster than her previous best.
Sophomore Tristan Bohlman finished one spot ahead of Heinert in the 100 back, and even swam a faster time than the final heat’s sixth-place finisher. Bohlman was eighth in the 200 IM, but again swam a faster time than two of the final heat’s top six.
The Panthers placed two swimmers in the final heat of the 200 free.
The freshmen tandem of Aly Schneider and Emily Doughty finished fourth and fifth, respectively, earning 21 points for Powell. Doughty’s time of 2:17.96 in the 200 free prelims was a 1.36 second improvement on her seed time.
Doughty would get another top finish when she swam a time of 6:15.97, good for fourth place, in the 500 free. Doughty tallied a total of 21 points for Powell.
Schneider reached the “B” finals of the competitive 100 free. She finished ninth with a time of 1:00.88, just 1.02 seconds behind sixth place and a one second cut off her personal best.
Senior Lydia Allen finished ninth in both the 100 fly (1:15.86) and 500 free (6:38.20).
A handful of Powell’s top swimmers did not cut time, which Roberson said is of no concern.
“If you look at a lot of the other teams and their times, a lot of girls are still adding time at conference,” Robertson said. “It’s not uncommon to add time in conference.”
The coach said he fully expects to see his team’s best at state. The Panthers will start to taper (reduce the intensity of training to rest the body for state) this week and Robertson said that should allow them to be at their peak when it matters most.
“Everybody’s going to cut time at state, I think,” Robertson said.
Powell’s relay teams continued to be a source for team points, finishing no lower than third place in the meet’s three team relays.
The Panther team of Tracy, Moretti, Allen and O’Neill finished third in the meet-opening 200 yard medley relay, just .83 seconds behind second place. Powell again took third in the 200 free relay. The foursome of O’Neill, Heinert, sophomore Taryn Bohlman and Schneider combined for a time of 1:54.
The Panthers’ best relay performance came in the final event of the meet. Powell was second, again to the Broncs, in the 400 free relay. Liggett, Taryn Bohlman, Schneider and Tracy swam a 4:08.15, two-plus seconds ahead of the third place Kemmerer team.
The three relay teams netted Powell 74 team points.
Robertson was honored with the 3A West Coach of the Year award for leading the Panthers to one of their most successful season in recent memory.
In typical Robertson fashion, the coach was eager to pass the credit to his swimmers and USA swim coach Jerry Rodriguez, who Robertson said laid much of the ground work that led to Powell’s success.
“A lot of it has to do with the girls that we have, how hard they’re working,” Robertson said. “ And I know I couldn’t have done it without Jerry, and his help.
“I take them as far as I can,” he continued. “I try to push them, try to keep them motivated but really it kind of starts when they’re young.”
While Robertson said he appreciated the honor, he was more proud of his team’s performance in Jackson.
“I’m way more excited about our second place than my coaching award,” he said. “That means a lot more.”
Final standings: 1. Jackson - 418; 2. Powell - 237; 3. Lander - 166; 4. Cody - 157; 5. Kemmerer - 129; 6. Sublette County - 115; 7. Lyman - 64.