Over the course of the winter, the Havre High boys and girls swim teams work very hard. Countless laps in the pool, day after day. Swimming is a grueling sport.
However, the payoff comes this weekend for the Blue Ponies and for the rest of the high school swimmers around the state of Montana as they converge on Hardin for the 2013 Montana State Swimming Championships. The meet gets under way this afternoon and runs through Saturday afternoon at the Hardin Community Activity Center Pool.
Havre will send six boys and nine girls to the state meet, which is combined between Class A and Class AA. The Blue Ponies will be competing in the team competition with only Billings Central and Hardin, but all swimmers swim in the same races, which means HHS also races against the Class AA schools.
For Class A, that means the points are very hard to come by most of the time, but last year, the Billings Central Rams did something which hasn’t happened often – which is finish among the top teams regardless of classification. Last season, the Billings Central boys scored 185 points, not only winning the Class A state championship, but also finishing third for all schools in the meet. The Billings Central girls weren’t far behind, scoring 157 points, which was good enough for fourth overall, and easily enough to win the Class A title. By comparison, the HHS boys scored 37 points to finish second to the Rams, while the Pony girls finished third in Class A with 18 points.
And with the Rams dominating yet another season in the pool, longtime Havre head coach Chris Inman knows her teams are up against it in the Class A race. But she says the biggest thing her swimmers can do is go out and race for themselves and not worry about the competitors in the other lanes.
“Billings Central is definitely the favorite,” Inman said. “But our mindset is for the kids to go out and swim their races and give it everything they have. We only worry about what we can control, and that’s for our kids to swim the best they can and give it everything they have, and our kids will do that.”
Though the Pony boys are only entering six swimmers in Hardin, those six certainly have a chance to make some noise in the pool. Desmond Fialkosky, Nick Rhines and Taylor Riphenburg will all swim the 100-meter freestyle for the Ponies, and all three compete on Havre’s strong relay teams. Paul Jeffery will swim the 50 free, while Bryant O’Leary will swim the 500 free and 100 breaststroke and Ben Sigel will compete in the 50 and 100 free. The freestyle is Havre’s strong suit, especially the relays, and that’s where Inman says her boys team can score big.
“On the boys side, we’re probably battling it out with Hardin,” Inman said. “But you never know. We have very strong relay teams and I think they’ll score a lot of points. All of our boys do very well in the freestyle and I think they’ll do very well this weekend.”
The HHS girls will have Skylar Vukasin and Larissa Price swimming in the 500 and 100 free, while Morgan Jappe will swim the 50 free. Hannah Pepprock will race in the 50 free and 100 breaststroke, Mackenna Barkus will compete in the 100 and 200 free, Megan Smith in the 100 backstroke, Lieza Reighard in the 100 free, Jackie Martin in the 100 fly and Samantha French in the 500 free and the 100 backstroke. Again, the Ponies will look to their relays to make up points.
“On the girls side, again it will be us and Hardin because Billings Central is very tough and is going to score a lot of points,” Inman said. “But you never know what can happen and I expect our girls to go out and swim very well.”
Regardless of whether or not the Ponies can catch the Rams, Havre will put on a strong showing as it always does. Inman is taking 15 outstanding swimmers to the pool in Hardin, and with how passionate they all are about their sport, and about this weekend, they will all certainly do well.
“Our focus is on swimming hard and fast. On giving everything we’ve got because you never know what can happen,” Inman said. “The state swim meet is very intense and it’s a meet our kids really look forward too. Our kids have worked very hard this year, and I’m really proud of them. And they will go out this weekend and give it everything they’ve got.”
The Montana State Swimming Championships begin today in Hardin with the preliminary races. The finals and consolation finals are set for Saturday.