By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
The Havre High swim team has multiple missions with the same goal - a state championship trophy.
The Ponies will travel to Great Falls on Saturday for the All-Class State Swimming Championships at Great Falls High.
For the Pony boys, it is a mission to restore the Class A championship trophy to the Havre trophy case after a one-year absence.
For the Pony girls, it is a mission to protect what is rightfully theirs and win a sixth straight Class A team title.
For head coach Chris Inman, it is a mission to bring both teams together and maintain the dominance Havre has had in Class A swimming.
"I know the kids are really excited about this weekend," Inman said.
The Ponies were off last weekend, but in the weeks before they had their share of state level competition at the predominantly Class AA Helena and Bozeman meets.
"I really think those two meets helped us prepare," Inman said. "Any time you can compete against competition it will only make you better."
There haven't been many teams better than the Pony girls in the recent years. Havre will look for its sixth title in as many years and is the prohibitive favorites.
The Ponies qualified 12 girls and will look for very balanced performances in the relays and individual events to blow past Hardin, their nearest competitors.
"Hardin should be our biggest competition," Inman said. "But you never know how they are going to swim. They've been a little up and down this season."
Havre will look to its 200 medley relay team of Megan Reinke, Jessica Obrecht, Morgan Zimmer and Rachel Hansen to lead the point production.
The foursome has been solid in the event all season and Inman believes that they can really get things going for Havre.
"The medley relay really sets the tone for the rest of the meet," she said. "This group has swum together for most of the season, and I really think they can finish in the top eight."
Havre should also be formidable in the two freestyle relays, as well. In the 200 relay, Hansen, Zimmer, Kyra Kaercher and Emily Kostelecky will team up, while Kostelecky, Zimmer, Kaercher and Kristin Evanson will team up for the 400 relay.
"Both of our freestyle relays are more than capable of scoring points," Inman said. "They will be a big part of our success."
Individually, Havre could get points from Hansen in the 50 and 100 freestyle and Zimmer in the 500 freestyle. Other potential placers include Obrecht in the 100 breaststroke and Mary-Beth Blankenship and Megan Reinke in the 100 backstroke.
It's that type of depth and experience that should lead Havre to another state title.
"The girls really enjoy the winning," Inman said. "They take a lot of pride in our success and they want to continue it. Our girls are state meet veterans and they know what it takes to bring home a title."
While the girls are looking to continue their championship success, the Pony boys are ready to restore theirs.
Last season, Havre failed to win a boys team title for the first time in four years as Billings Central dethroned the Ponies.
Havre will now try to return the favor to the highly-talented Rams squad.
"Billings Central just has some outstanding individuals," Inman said. "But the boys really want to get that trophy back."
The Ponies aren't without their share of outstanding individuals, led by senior Scott Robinson, who returns from wrist surgery to compete this weekend.
"Scott is supposed to be ready to go this weekend," Inman said. "His cast was supposed to come off and he is going to swim."
Robinson hasn't swum in a meet in weeks, but has done other things to keep in shape.
"Scott has still been working out at the college and training hard," Inman said. "But the big thing for us will just be his presence at the meet. He is such a great leader and the rest of the boys really look up to him. Just having him there should give our boys team more confidence."
Robinson will compete in his specialty event - the 50 freestyle along with the 100 freestyle. Even though he hasn't swum much, he should still be in Saturday's finals. The event is based on raw power and stroke turnover and strength and less on endurance, which should be to his benefit. Robinson finished third overall in the 50 free last year and fourth in the 100 free.
Even without Robinson, Havre defeated Billings Central quite easily in the Class A Invitational earlier this season. But with so many other teams and individuals competing, the scenario much different. Basically, it could come down to those all-important relays again.
"If the boys are going to win another title, the relays are going to be the key," Inman said. "We have to score points in those relays, because that's where Billings Central is also good."
Inman will suit up Kevin Friede, D.J. Stuker, Jordan Croft and Sam Simpson in 200 medley relay, while Robinson, Simpson, Croft and Stuker will compete in both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
"I really think we have solid relay teams," Inman said. "They are capable of getting us points in each relay."
Havre qualified 12 boys for the state meet this season, which isn't bad, considering there were only 12 boys on the entire team last season.
"We had a lot of boys get a taste of what the state meet was like last year," Inman said. "And that experience will really help us."
Besides Robinson, Inman hopes to get individual points from Bryden Vukasin in 100 breaststroke and Stuker in the 100 backstroke.
While most people like to look at Saturday's finals as the make-or-break point of the state title run, Inman knows it really is decided on Friday.
"What we do on Friday will make things much easier on Saturday," Inman said. "In Class A, state titles are won on Friday in the preliminaries, not on Saturday in the finals."
The All-Class State Swim Meet will start on Friday at 11 a.m. at the Great Falls High Pool. The meet will run through Saturday afternoon.