By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The Havre High School swim team enters the warm waters at its own invitational Saturday when it hosts the Havre meet, beginning at noon at the MSU-Northern pool.
"It's early in the season and we've been practicing on some of our techniques," said first-year head coach Chris O'Donnell. "I am looking for them to do throughout the race those things we've been working on in practice. This will be a good opportunity to see where we stand."
Kalispell, Great Falls Russell, Great Falls High, and Havre will be competing Saturday.
The Havre aquatic bunch opened the season at Kalispell with both the boys and the girls finishing sixth.
Last year at the Havre Invite, the boys' team finished third. High-point winners were Kyle Howard, who graduated, and returning letter winners Nick Porter, Ryan Bennett, and Tyler Croft.
Croft notched a second-place finish in the breast stroke, while Bennett finished third in the 100 meter back stroke last year.
Last week, Croft, a junior, finished third in the 100 freestyle and the 100 breast stroke. He was the highest male Blue Pony finisher.
Bennett, Croft, Porter and J.J. Albertson will make up the 200 freestyle relay team. Bennett, Croft, Porter and Nick Ewing will swim in the 400 free relay.
The boys' 200 relay finished sixth at Kalispell with a time of 2:06.59.
On the girls' side, the female Ponies finished fourth last season, but lost two of its members to graduation.
"I think they will do much better this year," O'Donnell said.
Sophomore Maureen Porter and senior Maria Gilleece return from last year's team.
Porter had the highest finish one year ago with a third in the 50 free.
Last weekend, Porter also had the highest finish, placing third in the 500 free.
In the 200 free girls' relay, Gilleece, Cara Holmquist, Kathy McShane, and Jamie Haberger will compete. In the 400 free relay, Gilleece, Erin Lynch, Porter, and Elizabeth Stuker will compete.
Last weekend, the girls finished fifth in the 400 with a time of 4:25.06.
"Both the 200 and 400 free relays have a great shot at winning this weekend," O'Donnell said. "With the girls, it is going to be neck and neck to the finish. I hope we can put together four good swims in that relay to win."
"Kalispell has a real strong team for both boys and girls," O'Donnell said. "I think they will be the big powerhouse at the meet. I believe that we have a great chance of beating both the boys' and girls' teams of both Great Falls schools if we swim to our capabilities."
In the girls' medley relay, Holmquist, Lynch, Porter, and Stuker will compete. For the boys, Brian Ehlert, Clif Cunningham, Albertson and Ewing will race.
The girls finished seventh last weekend in the race with a time of 2:10.84, while the boys placed sixth with a time of 2:24.17.
"We just hope we can swim to our capabilities," O'Donnell said.