The Powell High School boys’ swim team took second, falling only to powerhouse Lander Valley High School, at the 3A conference in Lyman over the weekend.
All but one Panther will continue on to state. “Fourteen out of 15 are going and that’s pretty good,” said PHS coach Stephanie Warren.
Lander landed 326 points and Powell was hot on Lander’s heels with 292 points.
Lander has 25 swimmers compared to Powell’s 15, with only 14 Panthers competing Friday and Saturday. “They’re (Lander) a great team,” Warren said.
“The 2014 3A West Conference Championship was one of the most exciting meets that I have ever attended,” said PHS assistant swim coach Jerry Rodriguez.
“On Friday the boys all did their jobs placing high enough to get into the final two heats for Saturday, some with season- and personal-best times,” Rodriguez said. “All of our relays were top three or four.”
At one juncture in the meet, the Panthers were six points short of first place.
“This gave the guys a lot of inspiration going into finals the next day,” Rodriguez said. “That showed in the first event when our 200 medley team of senior Nic Tracy, senior Edward Oursler, senior Jakob Bowers and junior Billy Baker came from behind and Billy Baker out touched the Lander swimmer and gave us first place with a season-best time.”
“Junior Ben Wetzel was a man on a mission going into his best event, the 500 free,” Rodriguez said. “He went out fast and never looked back, winning the event by more than nine seconds.”
Wetzel’s time was 5:23.50.
Baker, junior Alex Bjornestad, sophomore Seth Fuller and Wetzel pulled fourth in the 200 freestyle relay.
Bowers, Wetzel, Tracy and Oursler snatched third in the 400 freestyle relay.
In the 200 freestyle Wetzel was in first and senior Dan Liggett was seventh.
Fuller placed third, Bjornestad fourth and Tracy seventh in the 200 individual medley.
In the 50 freestyle Baker was second and Bowers was fifth. “Freshman Garret Henderson ended up as an alternate (14th place) and just missed qualifying by .08 (seconds),” Rodriguez said.
The divers went through prelims and semifinals with eight dives, ending with senior Jake MaGill in fourth, senior Quin Wetzel in fifth and Henderson in seventh.
Bowers won the 100 butterfly while Sophomore Tyson Wages placed sixth and Quin Wetzel seventh.
In the 100 freestyle, Fuller nailed second followed .23 seconds later by Oursler in third.
The 100 backstroke gave the Panthers their best showing with Baker second; Tracy, third; Bjornestad, fourth and Wages seventh, Rodriguez said.
The 100 breaststroke put Oursler in fourth and sophomore Josh Riedhammer in 12th.
Coaches voted Warren 3A West Head Coach of the year.
“It was an honor,” Warren said.
Having all three divers qualify for state was a big boost for Warren, who also credited her coaching partner.
Winning Coach of the Year entails teamwork, she said. “There is no way I could have done it without Jerry (Rodriguez),” Warren said.
The state meet is Feb. 27-28 in Gillette.
Lander’s size advantage will be minimized at state as only 18 or 19 Tigers qualified. “We are hoping to take our same team to state and have high hopes.” Rodriguez said. “Overall we’re extremely proud of them.”