The Havre High boys and girls swim teams have filled the trophy cases in the West Fourier at the HHS gymnasium over the years.
Now, the blue Ponies are trying to add even more hardware to their already overfull shrine at HHS. And as the 2011 All-Class State Swim Meet gets underway today in Butte, both HHS teams have something to prove in the pool this weekend.
The Havre High boys are coming off a state championship season from a year ago and the Ponies would like nothing more than to repeat. Meanwhile, the HHS girls’ streak of consecutive state championships ended at last year’s state meet in Great Falls, and the Ponies would like nothing more than to start a new streak in Butte.
But if either Havre team is going to claim a state title this weekend, the Ponies will have to score points among the state’s elite swimmers. At the state meet, all 13 Class AA teams and the three Class A schools, Havre, Billings Central and Hardin compete together in all races, then points are divided among AA and A for team titles. So with points at a premium, the Class A team which places in one or two races usually comes out on top in the team competition. And for years, that’s been Havre, but this season it’s a pretty even race between all three Class A schools on both sides. In head-to-head competition this season, the Hardin boys have held a slight edge over the Ponies, while Billings Central looks to be the slight favorite on the girls side.
But either Havre team could win this weekend, and there’s always a chance the Ponies could make it a double, like they did as recently as 2007.
On the boys side, Havre will look to its freestyle swimmers to carry the load. Evan Flathers is the top gun for HHS in the short freestyle races, while Greg Rhines and Courtlan Vukasin have been outstanding in the loner races. Havre will also have Sawyer Zugel and Taylor Chinook’s Taylor Riphenburgh, both of whom have been strong in the pool this season. Nick Rhines, Ty Bauer, Desmond Fialkowsky and Peyton Robertson will also compete for the HHS boys. The Ponies should compete well in the 50 free, the 200 free and the 500 free as well as all three relay races.
On the girls side, the Ponies are also strong in freestyle with sisters Kacie and Katie Johnson, but the Ponies are also balanced across the board. Senior Brooke Jappe has come on strong this season, as has junior Kaity McKnight. Havre will also be strong with sophomore Megan Obrecht, who is one of the best breaststrokers in all of Montana. And the Pony girls have the depth to help push them back to state title contention this season with Larissa Price, Kaylee Schubert, Samantha French, Carona Sprinkle and Megan Malisani.
The state meet starts today with preliminary heats in all events beginning at 11 a.m. The finals will start Saturday at 11 a.m. and all of the action will take place at the state-of-the-art olympic-sized pool at the Butte YMCA.