The newcomers will join a team that lost six seniors and five of its seven state qualifiers to graduation, so Robertson will be counting on the younger swimmers to step up and fill the gap.
Only two state qualifiers, Anya Tracy and Belen Quillen, return this year, but Robertson said juniors Korrie Kalberer and Courtenay Zorgati were close as was sophomore Baxter Heinert. A number of others were within a few seconds and could step up this year, and Robertson is excited about the freshmen.
“We have a solid core of freshmen with lots of USA experience,” Robertson said.
Robertson said the team will be swimming in the morning as well as after school this year and the additional pool time will give the girls more opportunity to develop their skills and endurance. In addition, Robertson has recruited a little more coaching help in former Lady Panther Jessica Curtis, who has volunteered to join assistant coach Tanya Fawcett-Kay and part-time diving coach Stephanie Warren in working with the team. Given the larger team this year, Robertson said, the extra help will provide more individual coaching for the swimmers.
“Jessica will be working one-on-one with the girls,” Robertson said. “The more eyes you have at practice, the more individual attention you can give the girls.”
Tracy, Quillen, Kalberer and junior Sarah Wurzel have been named team captains for the season.
Robertson said many of 3A teams in the state are in situations similar to Powell’s. Last year’s champion, Jackson, and perennial power Lander both lost some top swimmers to graduation, Roberston said as did most other 3A teams. Both the Lady Broncs and the Lady Tigers will likely have fast teams in the pool, but Robertson doesn’t know how strong they will be.
“The neat thing about is that we have a new young group, but the other teams are in the same situation,” Robertson said. “It’s neat to go into the season not knowing what the other teams have. I know what i’ve got, but not what everybody else has.”
The swimmers open Saturday at the Lander Invitational, beginning at 11 a.m. Next week they will swim in the Cody Invitational on Friday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m.
The first home action for the Lady Panthers will be a dual with Worland on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. They will host their own Gene Dozah Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 10 beginning at 11 a.m.