BY: George Ferguson
I admit it. I am as guilty as anyone for thinking that the Havre High girls swim team had it easy when it comes to winning state championships.
I could say I didn't know any better because, quite frankly, I am not an authority on how scoring is kept at high school swim meets.
But I'm not here to make excuses for myself or anyone else.
I am here to tell everyone that the girls who compete for the Blue Ponies, and their head coach, don't owe us any explanations whatsoever.
Regardless, HHS head coach Chris Inman decided to set the record straight on what she thinks about how people perceive her team's string of Class A state championships - a state record seven in a row after the Ponies captured the 2006 Class A championship on Saturday in Hardin.
“A lot of people just don't understand swimming,” Inman said. “That state tournament is an all-class event, so that means that in order to score points our kids have to compete against kids at the Class AA level. The caliber of swimming is very high at the state tournament and our kids always seem to rise up and swim at a very high level.”
Well said, Chris, and thank you for the explanation. But you and your swimmers didn't owe it to us, or yourselves, for that matter.
Any sports fans and anyone with a competitive bone in his or her body should already know that the words “easy” and “championship” just don't mix. Ever.
It doesn't matter if it's basketball, football, kickball or foosball, being the best at something and achieving the highest level of success is never easy.
I should know because, as the Havre High tennis coach, I have taken some of the same criticism the last couple of years for having a “stacked team” and coaching in an era when the level of competition in high school tennis has dwindled some.
All of that may or may not be true. But just as I dare anyone to tell Kenzie Johnson or Jessie Obrecht that they had it easy in Hardin last weekend, I dare anyone to tell Kyle Baltrusch or Chase Castloo that they had it easy at the Class A state tennis tournament last spring.
The fact is quite simple: These are teenagers, which in itself is hard enough. But they are teens competing under tremendous amounts of pressure, whether they are swimming or playing against three schools or 300 schools.
Competition is competition and pressure to perform is pressure to perform.
Why I or anyone else thought we could put a number on it is is absurd now that I have thought about it.
So what if the Ponies had to only outscore four other schools to win the state championship. Why should that demean their work? The answer is it doesn't and it shouldn't.
Havre doesn't decide how many schools have swim teams. The Blue Pony swimmers don't control who goes out for swimming and who becomes good at it at other schools across the state.
There is an old adage in sports that goes something like: “You can only play who is on your schedule.” I have read other Havre High coaches using the cliche in the pages of this newspaper.
And that is exactly what the Havre High girls swimming program has done over the last seven years, and it is exactly what the Ponies did this weekend.
They went to Hardin and beat all the teams that were in front of them. Under tremendous pressure, the HHS girls went out and performed at the highest level they could and they brought another trophy back to the HHS trophy case.
The validity of that feat should never be questioned. It should only be applauded. Congratulations, girls.