Eighteen swimmers will head for Lander Friday as the Powell Panther swim team leaves the blocks for a new season.
Eight swimmers return from last year's squad, including five who qualified for state competition. Two seniors are out for the first time and a number of promising freshmen are in the pool as well.
Returning state qualifiers include senior diver Cole Good, a seventh place finisher at state last year, along with fellow seniors Billy Cummings, who placed in the individual medley and the breaststroke last year, and Danny McKearney. Junior Kyle Anderson swam in the consolation finals of the 500 freestyle and sophomore Jaren LaPierre did the same in both the 500 and 200 freestyle.
Other returnees are seniors Brennan Althoff and Tyler McCauley and sophomore Sam Kuntz.
Seniors Dillon Jeffs and Dylan Ulmer are new to the team this year, along with freshmen Edwin Oursler, Nic Tracy, Quinn Wetzel, Jakob Bowers, Garrett Hall, Jake MaGill, Mathew Riedhammer and Trevor Zickafoose.
Coach Jerry Rodriguez said he is optimistic about the team's prospects this year, particularly the freshmen, several of whom he has coached in his USA program.
“We have some freshmen with a good USA background,” Rodriguez said.
Lander again figures to be the top team in the state, Rodriguez said, and the Panthers will face them right away in their opening dual in Lander. The following week, the team will go up against several 4A schools in the Riverton Invitational. Their first home appearance will be Jan. 8 when they host the annual Gene Dozah Invitational at the Powell Aquatic Center.