Havre Daily News sports editor
Lucky number seven. That is the the only number that means anything to the Havre High girls swim team as the Class A state swim meet gets under way today in Hardin.
The Blue Ponies are gunning for their seventh consecutive state championship, and if they can do it this weekend, they will further cement themselves in high school swimming lore.
“I think our girls have a very good chance of winning another state championship,” HHS head coach Chris Inman said. “It will be a challenge because the competition between us and Hardin has been pretty close all season. But if we swim like we're capable of, I like our chances.”
The HHS boys have also been dominant in Class A swimming. But the Pony boys haven't won a Class A state championship since 1993. Right now, Billings Central is the team Havre is chasing.
“Billings Central is heavily favored this weekend,” Inman said. “They are a very good team. But if we can get some really good performances in the finals, we should at least be in a position to be right there with them at the end.”
There are only three teams competing for the Class A boys and girls championships, but scoring is somewhat different. Class AA and A swimmers race together, and are individually scored together. That means that in the finals, in order to score points, HHS swimmers will go head-to-head with Class AA competitors.
“I don't think a lot of people realize how the scoring works,” Inman said. “It is a very challenging system. But we have competed with the AA teams all season, so we know what to expect when we get to the finals.”
In order for either HHS team to win a state championship this weekend, the Ponies will have to get strong performances from their relay teams.
“The three relays will be what makes or breaks us because you get double the points in those events,” Inman said. “Especially the boys. If we can do well in the boys relays, we will score some big points. And I think we have three really strong girls relay teams, so we should be in good shape there. But in order to do really well, all of our relay teams have to finish in the top six.”
Individually, the HHS girls also have some gold medal contenders. Freshman Kenzie Johnson is a strong contender in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races. Sophomore Jessie Obrecht should do well in the 100-yard breaststroke, and both Mary Beth Blankenship and Megan Reinke are solid in the 100-yard backstroke.
On the boys side Havre will look to its sprinters to score big points this weekend. Junior Scott Vigliotti is a strong contender in the 200-yard freestyle. Sophomore Michael Hauser could win gold in the 50- and 100-yard free, and fellow sophomore DJ Stuker is a contender in the 100-yard backstroke.
“This is a very exciting time for all of our swimmers,” Inman said. “If we go out and compete well and swim like we're capable of, we can have a lot of success in this meet.”
The Class A state meet begins this afternoon with the preliminaries. The finals will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday. All of the action will take place at the Hardin Community Center pool.