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February 27, 2014 9:13 am

Panther boys swim team stoked for state tourney

Written by Gib Mathers

The Powell High School boys’ swim team is raring to test its mettle against Wyoming’s best at the 3A state meet in Gillette today (Thursday) and Friday.

Powell High School assistant swim coach Jerry Rodriguez said the boys took fourth at state last year. He is hoping they attain top three this year. Lots of Panther juniors and seniors competed in USA Swimming, and Rodriguez said he believes his guys are well prepared.

“This year I feel like we’re stronger,” he said.

Senior Edward Oursler did not want to issue any predictions at Tuesday’s practice.

“I’ll let our swimming do the talking,” Oursler said.

Lander and Worland will be tough competitors, but, “I think we have a good shot,” said senior Jakob Bowers.

Lander will send the biggest team. Worland is smaller, but what the Warriors lack in numbers they make up for in speed, said senior Nic Tracy.

Lander will have 18 swimmers or more. Powell has 13 athletes competing. More swimmers from the same school competing in each event earns more points, Rodriguez said.

The preliminaries take place today (Thursday), so the guys must chalk up fast times. Only the top 12 in each event will qualify for Friday’s competition, said PHS coach Stephanie Warren.

Prelims will be tough for a couple of her athletes, but Warren said she hopes all the swimmers will qualify for at least one event Friday.

One team member did not qualify for state. That is tough, because every point counts, and he’ll be missed, Warren said.

Selecting swimmers for events also is pivotal so they are not tired before starting their next race, Warren said.

Rodriguez likes relays because they mean more points. The Panthers have some fast relay teams, but so does Kemmerer High School, he said.

Powell may have the edge in the 200 medley relay because the team is 5 seconds away from breaking the record, and that relay is the first event at state, Rodriguez said.

He has three swimmers who look good in the backstroke, so they should place fairly high up, and the divers look good, too.

“Butterfly ought to be pretty good for us” as well, Rodriguez said.

Freestyle events always are a bit uncertain, but they have powerful swimmers to deploy, he said.

Junior Ben Wetzel is on the PHS records board for the 500 freestyle and Tracy is on the board for the 100 backstroke. The potential to break records stimulates the guys to push the envelope, according to their coaches.

“That’s been a huge motivator for them,” Warren said.

It hasn’t been all smooth strokes and graceful dives. Senior diver Quin Wetzel hit his head on the diving board during practice Monday, but did not suffer a concussion and is ready to compete in Gillette, Warren said.

“I’ll definitely be ready tomorrow,” Wetzel said Tuesday.

He was attempting an inward one and one-half dive when he clipped the board. That is one of his best dives, Wetzel said, and he is not worried about psyching himself out in the competition following his mishap.

“I don’t think it will be an issue,” he said.

“We have a good shot, but it will be down to the wire,” said senior Jake MaGill.

“I think it will be interesting,” said senior Dan Liggett.

The swimmers were joking around a bit as they warmed up prior to hitting the pool Tuesday. Many were sporting exceptionally bright heads.

Before state, it is typical for them to bleach or dye their hair an obnoxious color. Then, before the big meet, and following a team spaghetti dinner, they bring out the razors, Warren said.

“And then do head shaving,” Rodriguez said.

Team members will endeavor to enjoy themselves, but the pressure is on to perform at the culminating meet of the season, Rodriguez said.

The guys are charged for state, and he said he believes the potential is high to place well in races and diving.

“I think it will be a lot of fun,” Quin Wetzel said.

State is the most exciting swim meet. “Everybody gets really pumped up,” Rodriguez said.

“I think it’s going to be a great meet,” Warren said.

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