Success in the pool has been the trademark of the Havre High swimming program for years now. Whether it’s team titles, as both the HHS girls and boys teams have won many state championships under veteran head coach Chris Inman, or whether its individual glory, the Blue Ponies know how to get it done in the water.
And the 2012-13 season should be no different as the HHS swim teams are loaded with talented swimmers. In all, HHS has 30 kids in the pool this winter, and Inman said her teams are looking good thus far.
“Practice has gone really well so far,” Inman said. “These kids work very hard and they love the sport. Right now, we’re just focusing on fundamentals. A lot of stroke drills. We’re just learning how to swim again. And it’s going really well.
“We have a really good mix of kids this year,” she continued. “We have a lot of seniors and a lot of freshmen. We have great senior leaders and that’s really nice. Our seniors are great leaders, great role models and they set a great example for our younger swimmers.”
After finishing third in Class A at the Montana State Swimming Championships last year Great Falls, the Ponies return a bevy of top competitors this season.
The HHS girls return standouts like MacKenna Barkus, Morgan Jappe, Larissa Price, Samantha French, Leiza Reighard and Skylar Vukasin, all of whom saw plenty of time in the pool a season ago. Inman also added that youngsters like Jacque Martin, Hannah Pepprock and Alara Vogel will add talent and depth to an already solid Pony girls team.
“I think the strength of our girls team will be our freestyle swimmers and our freestyle relays,” Inman said. “And our depth. We have a really good group of new girls who give us much more depth. We need to put together a good medley relay team, but overall, I think we’re going to have a really strong group of girls this year.”
The Blue Pony boys team is heavy on seniors and heavy on experience this season, and that should bode well come February and the state meet.
Back for the Ponies this year is Desmond Fialkosky, Paul Jeffrey, Bryant O’Leary, Nick Rhines, Taylor Rippenburg, Ben Siegel and Derek Van Dessel, all of whom swam for the HHS varsity team in one form or another last season. Bren Broadhead and Josh Price are also expected to give the Ponies even more depth in the pool this season.
“We have a lot of experience on the boys side,” Inman said. “And a lot of really good senior leadership. I think our free relay teams will be really strong, and we have some really good breaststrokers. We just need to build a really strong medley relay team.”
And while Inman sees both her teams looking strong again this winter, the Ponies will have an uphill climb to compete for the Class A state title. Last season, the Billings Central boys finished an unheard of third at the state meet, and that’s amongst all Class AA teams, while the Billings Central girls weren’t far behind, finishing first in Class A and fourth overall. Hardin will also field strong teams once again, so the Ponies will be fighting both the Rams and Bulldogs all the way.
But as usual, the schedule favors Havre’s progression. The Ponies will open the season at home with the Havre Invitational Dec. 8, and they host Hardin and Billings Central in the Class A Meet, Jan. 5 in Havre. The Ponies also travel to top swim meets in Missoula, Great Falls and Helena, all in preparation for the state meet, which takes place Feb. 8-9 in Hardin.
“The kids are excited,” Inman said. “We have great kids who love to compete and love to swim, and they have fun. So I’m definitely looking forward to this season.”
Havre will not be attending the season-opening Flathead Invite this year. Instead, the Ponies will prep for next week’s Havre Invitational with a Blue-White Intra-Squad Meet Saturday morning at the Havre Community Pool.
HHS will host Class AA powers Great Falls High and CMR in next week's annual Havre Invitational, also at the Havre Community Pool.