Success in the pool is nothing new to the Havre High boys and girls swim teams. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the Blue Pony girls swim teams were on a streak of 10 straight Class A championships. And the Pony boys have earned their share of ha
But with each new season brings a new chance at glory and that’s what the Ponies will be swimming for again in 2011-12. The Pony swim teams open their season Saturday at the Kalispell Invitational, then host the Havre Invitational on Dec. 10.
“We have a really good group of kids out for the team this year,” veteran Havre head coach Chris Inman said. “We have some outstanding seniors and a lot of kids who’ve already swam a lot. But we also have some really good freshman boys and girls, and some newcomers to swimming that will really help our teams.
Both Blue Pony squads finished second in Class A a year ago, and both teams return some outstanding talent.
Leading the way on the girls side is senior Megan Obrecht, who placed in the 100-meter breaststroke a year ago. Obrecht is one of the top breaststroker swimmers in all of Montana and Inman said she is poised for another big season.
“She can definitely get in the top three at state,” Inman said. “She’s swam well against all of the swimmers from the bigger schools and her times are right there with all of them.”
The Pony girls return a wealth of experience, including outstanding freestyle swimmer Katie Johnson, as well as McKenna Barkus, Jordyn Eastlick, Morgan Jappe, Megan Malisani, Larissa Price and Carona Sprinkle, all of whom have had plenty of varsity experience. Samantha French is also back for HHS, while senior Anna Kaercher joins the team for the first time.
Youngsters like Kristawna Fox, Natalie Hill, Jaden Korb, Chelsey Murphy, Lieza Riegard, as well as juniors Karlee Myers and Skylar Vukasin will also help HHS out tremendously this season.
But as good as the Ponies can be in the pool, they still have to contend with Billings Central, which Inman said is still the favorite.
“I think we will be strong in plenty of events, and our relay teams will be very good again for us,” Inman said. “But all three schools, us, Billings Central and Hardin all have good swimmers, so it will be interesting. But I think the Billings Central girls are going to be very strong again this year.”
Havre’s boys are also very strong and are a legitimate threat to capture a state title for the first time since 2007.
The Ponies return an experienced and fast bunch, led by senior Evan Flathers, who’s strong in the freestyle events. Also back for the Ponies are seniors Courtlan Vukasin, Sawyer Zugel and James Cox, three more outstanding sprinters. Juniors Desmond Fialkosky and Derek Van Dessel also have a lot of experience in the pool as does sophomore Taylor Riphenburg from Chinook.
Juniors Nick Rhines and Bryant O’Leary will also be difference makers for the Pony boys squad, while Paul Jeffery, Marc Klimas, Cole Milligan, Charlie O’Donnell, and Carlos Tovar, as well as exciting freshman Ben Siegel round out the Pony boys lineup.
“I think our boys team is going to be very strong in the relays,” Inman said. “We are also pretty strong in the freestyle events. We have a lot of really strong swimmers who have a lot of experience.
“Billings Central is probably the team to beat, but I think our boys are right there with them.”
What also helps both HHS teams is a strong schedule. Throughout the season, the Ponies get tom compete against almost every swimming program in the state, including almost all of the Class AA schools. Havre sees Kalispell powers this weekend, then faces off against CMR and Great Falls High in December and January and the Rustlers and Bison are two of the premier teams in the state. The Ponies also attend tough meets in Helena and Missoula, before heading to the Montana State Swimming Championships in Great Falls in February.
“It’s really good to for our kids to swim against all the AA swimmers,” Inman said. “There are a lot of really good swim programs in Montana and to compete against them always gives us a sense of where we’re at and what we need to work on.”
And make no mistake, the Ponies will work hard to be the best they can be this season. Under Inman, Havre has been a strong swimming program for a long, long time and this season will be no different.
“This is a great group of kids,” Inman said. “They really work hard and they have fun and they enjoy competing. It’s exciting to start a new season.”
The Ponies will take a small group of kids to Kalispell on Saturday, then will be at full strength when they host the Havre Invitational Dec. 10 at the Havre Community Pool.