By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre High swim team is divided by motivation, but united in its goal.
Whether it is the Pony boys looking to restore their glory after missing out on a state title for the first time in four years, or it's the HHS girls looking to maintain their dominance in Class A for the sixth straight year, the end desire is still the same - a Class A state swimming title.
The Ponies will begin the quest for their respective state titles on Saturday when a portion of the squad will travel to the Kalispell Invitational.
Havre has yet another record turnout this season with 43 students out for swimming. However, for the first time in recent memory, the boys outnumber the girls in terms of overall participants.
"In all my years affiliated with swimming in Havre, I have never seen a team with more boys than girls," said veteran head coach Chris Inman. "It's really exciting."
A total of nine freshman boys and seven sophomores have added to Havre's newfound depth on the boys team.
Inman hopes that depth, along with all-everything performer Scott Robinson, will be enough to carry the Ponies past a very good Billings Central team.
"We need a huge performance from our relays and Scott's individual points if we want to beat Billings Central," she said. "They have got four very good swimmers that really carry them."
Robinson is a legitimate contender to win the overall state individual 50-meter freestyle title. He is also solid in the 100 freestyle. Also returning from last year are Bryden Vukasin, Sam Simpson, Jordan Croft, Scott Vigliotti and Jordan Magelssen, who all should be much improved from last season. Inman is also excited about Chinook newcomer D.J. Stuker.
"Scott is a great leader, but we need other kids to contribute in the relays and individual events," Inman said. "The freshmen last year got a taste of what state is all about. They want to get that trophy back."
For the Havre High girls, it isn't a question of getting the trophy; it's a matter of keeping it. The Ponies will make a run for an unprecedented sixth straight team title.
Inman likes her team's chances to remain atop Class A.
Billings Central suffered wholesale losses and Colstrip is down, while Harlem will enter this year as a new team in the division. That leaves perennial rival Hardin as the Pony girls' closest contender.
"Hardin will throw a very good team at us," Inman said. "They always do. They have five freshmen that are going to step up and help them immediately."
Havre returns several key swimmers from last year's title run, led by Chinook's Rachel Hansen. After losing Kasie Teske, Gwen Porter and Danielle Barton to graduation, Inman looks for Hansen along with Morgan Zimmer and Kristin Evanson to contribute. She also expects freshmen Mary-Beth Blankenship, Jessica Obrecht and Morgan Reinke to contribute immediately.
"Last year our relays really carried us, especially our medley relay," Inman said. "This year we have to find some people to fill those spots. Hopefully they can be close to as good as last year."
The freestyle relay isn't as big of a problem for Inman. Most of her swimmers are solid in that event.
"We will have a lot of competition between the girls for our free relays," Inman said. "That only makes us better."
With a host of relatively new faces, Inman has had her swimmers working on technique, turns, starts and other fundamentals.
"We need to work on those things right now," she said. "The conditioning will come."
As for this weekend, Inman will take mostly young kids, as most of her older kids will stay in Havre for the Senior Ball.
"It's a chance for our kids to see what a meet is like," Inman said. "We'll have our full team for the Havre Invitational next weekend."