Havre Daily News
The hardest thing to do in sports is to stay on top when everyone is out to get you. Coming into the 2005 season, the Havre Blue Ponies are clearly the top dogs in Class A swimming.
Now the challenge for the Ponies will be finding a way to stay on top.
The Ponies will open their season on Saturday when they travel to Kalispell for the Flathead Invitational.
The Ponies had a spectacular 2004 campaign, as the girls team won its sixth consecutive state championship and now has a shot at making history. If the girls can capture a seventh, they would set the state record for most consecutive state swimming titles.
“Our girls are excited about the chance to break that record,” HHS head coach Chris Inman said. “We have set a lot of records here over the past few years, and our girls are just chomping at the bit to get this one.”
The Ponies will return a relatively young but experienced girls team. The girls will be led by junior Morgan Zimmer, senior Megan Rienke, senior Kyra Kaercher, junior Mackenzie Johnson and a couple of talented sophomores in Mary-Beth Blankenship and Jessie Obrecht.
“We have a lot of great girls,” Inman said. “We have the potential to have some very solid individual swimmers, and we have the potential to get some very good relay groups that should get us a lot of points this year.”
The Blue Pony boys swim team is coming off a second-place finish at the state tournament and a third-place finish the year before. The Pony boys won four consecutive state championships from 1999 through 2002.
“The boys are really motivated to try and win back the state championship,” Inman said. “They have just been working really hard and they are really excited to start the season. They want to get their trophy back.”
The boys are led by senior captain Kevin Friede, senior Jordan Croft, senior Kyle McKay, junior Jordan Magelssen and sophomore DJ Stuker. The boys have a good blend of youth and experience that should bode well for them during the season as they attempt to win their fifth state title in seven years.
One positive that the entire swim team seems to always have going for it is great team chemistry - a defining characteristic of this championship program.
“These kids have really come together over the past few years,” Inman said. “We always have a lot of fun, and they are always pulling for each other to do well. If the boys are swimming, then the girls are cheering for them. And if the girls are swimming, the boys are cheering for them.
As the Ponies embark upon their journey toward a pair of state championships, their main rival will be Billings Central, which is widely considered the team to beat in boys swimming, and should be the girls' top challenger to the throne.
Another worthy opponent is Hardin.
“Billings Central is ranked number one right now,” Inman said. “We are going to have to get some individuals to place at state to get us some points. We are also going to need our relay teams to get us a lot of points if we are going to compete with Billings Central.”
Another key to the Ponies' success this season is how many kids qualify for state. In Class A swimming, anyone can qualify as long as she or he meets the standards set at the beginning of the season by each individual coach.
For the Pony swimmers to qualify for the state swim meet, they have to beat the team's top 20 times from a year ago. That means a swimmer would have to have a good enough time to place in the top 20 at the state swim meet last season.
“There is no set requirement by the (Montana High School Association),” Inman said. “Any kid can qualify for the state meet. They just have to meet the standards that have been set by their coach.”
Overall, with a great mix of talent, effort, and enthusiasm, the Ponies appear destined for great things again in 2005.
“We just really have a great group of kids here,” Inman said. “The kids have worked extremely hard, and I just can't say enough about them.”
Havre High will be at home twice this season, beginning with the Havre Invitational on Dec. 10. Havre will also play host to the Class A swim meet on Jan. 7.