Powell finished second with 296 team points, 26 points off the pace of Lander’s 322, while placing two new qualifiers, earning additional event qualifications and setting multiple personal bests inside the Powell Aquatic Center.
PHS assistant coach Stephanie Warren said the PHS swimmers have realized what they’re capable of, and believe they have Lander’s full attention.
“I just know it means motivation. The kids definitely are very motivated to keep closing that gap as much as we can,” Warren said.
Powell’s top 200-yard free relay team posted the day’s second-fastest time, but was disqualified due to early movement, costing the Panthers eight points.
“We had a couple things that happened to us yesterday that took away some of those points,” Warren said. “Learning from the mistakes that we made, closing that gap even though we made some of those mistakes is definitely motivating to our team.”
Powell’s other two relay team’s — the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard free relay — finished first and second, respectively, earning big points in the invite.
Success in the relays could solidify Powell’s spot among the elite at the conference and state meets.
“They’re real big at the state meets, especially the top three places. That can swing a meet,” said PHS head coach Jerry Rodriguez.
Rodriguez added that Powell’s depth allows all three relay teams to be loaded with talent.
“We’ve got enough fast guys,” Rodriguez said. “The problem (in most years) is having enough fast guys to do all three relays.”
Swimmers from up and down the roster scored, often multiple Panthers in the same event, including two of the top three spots in diving.
Hudson Wilkerson, who joined the Panthers along with his brother Dillinger after a move from North Dakota during the winter break, made an immediate impact at Powell’s premier home event.
The sophomore took first place in the 1-meter diving competition with 180.40 points, which qualified him for the Class 3A state meet. Only three Class 3A divers scored more than 180 points entering last weekend.
Warren, who coaches the divers, said it didn’t take long to see what Hudson added to the Panthers.
“The minute he got on the board, we knew, 'Yup, that’s great,’” Warren said. “You could tell that he had a lot of potential. He has a lot of great balance, he has good takeoff. He had a pretty solid set of dives that he already knew.”
Hudson’s arrival should also give a boost to PHS junior Nate Magill, who took third in diving on Saturday with 165.70 points.
“(Hudson) and Nate have almost an identical diving list,” Warren said. “They’re very good for each other at practice and in competition.”
The Saturday efforts of Hudson and junior Owen Dent give Powell a dozen state qualifiers after just four meets.
Dent earned his first qualification of the season in the 100-yard breast with a time of 1:18.98.
Rodriguez said Dent was still not over a long bout of illness, but managed to post his season-best time away.
“If he can get a qualifying time swimming really tired and sick, that’s a good thing for him,” Rodriguez said.
Sophomores Kacey Creed and Gavin Asay each qualified for two more events at the Gene Dozah.
Creed won the 200-yard free with a qualifying time of 2:00.80 and was second in the 100-yard fly with a time of 1:00.73.
Asay finished seventh in the 200-yard IM with a time of 2:34.19 and eighth in the 100-yard fly with a time of 1:10.17.
Rodriguez credited Asay’s work ethic, even through the offseason, for his third and fourth qualifications of the season.
“Gavin’s really come around. As a freshman he was adjusting to the training we were doing,” Rodriguez began. “(Now) he’s really pushing himself. He’s one of the ones who trained more after the season. He’s gotten a lot better.”
Josh Riedhammer picked up his sixth qualification in the 500-yard free, which he won in 5:55.15. He also won the 100-yard fly, in which he’s already qualified, and was a member of the 200 free and 400 free relay teams.
Rodriguez said the best is still to come for the versatile senior.
“He’s really focused on his technique and he’s going really fast on his fly,” Rodriguez said. “And we’re not even anywhere near our peak training yet, so he’s going to go pretty well in the fly at state, I think.”
Junior Joe Kuntz finished third in the 200-yard free with a qualifying time of 2:07.77. It was the fifth qualification for Kuntz, who also swam a leg on the 400 free relay team.
Magill picked up his first non-diving qualification of the season when he finished eighth in the 100-yard breast with a time of 1:17.03.
Senior Brandon Anderson qualified for the 100-yard free with a time of 57.25 in his leg of the 400-yard free relay. Anderson swam on the JV squad of his Illinois school, but has quickly proven himself a valuable member of Powell’s varsity squad since transferring at the beginning of the school year.
“Every meet he swims he gets closer and closer to his best times. He has a lot of potential,” Rodriguez said.
The Panthers travel to Worland on Friday for a 5 p.m. meet.
Hall of Fame board gets a little Fuller
Senior Seth Fuller didn’t qualify in a new event on Saturday, but he did earn his place in the PHS record books.
Fuller won the 100-yard back with a time of 57.70, a personal best and the fifth fastest time in Panther history.
Fuller’s performance bested Ken Anderson’s time from 1991, and he may not be done.
“It’s early January, he has a goal to keep moving on that board,” Warren said. “He’s just going to get better. He’s going to get faster, he’s going to get stronger, and he’s very motivated. His goal is to get his name up there as much as he can.”
Fuller also was second in the 50-yard free with a personal best time of 23.03.
“From the first meet out, he came in swimming very strong,” Warren said. “He’s not going to take his senior year lightly.”
Newcomers turn heads
Junior Auston Layton and freshman Weston Moore are making big strides four meets into their first prep swim seasons.
“They both swam their personal best in the 50 (free); they each took off a couple seconds,” Warren said. “For them, swimming is brand new so it’s very encouraging to see that improvement.”
Layton swam a time of 37.42, 3.64 seconds faster than his previous best, while Moore’s time of 36.90 was a 1.92-second improvement.