By Kim Staudinger
Over the past few seasons, the Havre High swim team has built a reputation of a very successful team able to challenge anyone at any given time.
The two-time defending state champions for both the boy's and girl's teams return over 10 swimmers who competed at the state meet last year, making the prospects of another title very likely.
Though the Ponies lost a few key swimmers off of last year's team, including Tyler Croft, Ryan Bennett, Rick Husar, Erin Lynch and Carly Toldness, head coach Chris O'Donnell says both teams are filled with young swimmers, who will add much needed depth to the teams.
"We have a lot of young swimmers on our team, a lot of sophomores," O'Donnell said. "Those kids have worked hard and improved a lot at Kalispell. I am hoping they can keep improving and be respectible at state this year and hopefully place.
"I hope we can come together and swim our best at state and bring home the third straight title. We're going for three in a row."
Along with the strong returners on the girls' side in Maureen Porter and Elizabeth Stuker, who competed in the Western Zone Swim Championships in Hawaii this summer, the boy's team adds freshman Scott Robinson, who also competed in Hawaii. Other top returners, who also went to state last year, are Gwen Porter, Kasie Teske, Brittne Zimmer, Alicia Rundquist, Beth Kiem, Danielle Barton, Ryan Gilbreath, Joey Howland, Mario Pizzini, Sam Soyer, Brian Childree and Andrew McLain.
"We need the young swimmers to step up like Scott and the sophomore girls," O'Donnell said. "We need to keep plugging away and working on the fundamentals. It will be hard to replace swimmers like Croft and Bennett, but the boys have to step up and rally around that."
After three weeks of practice, Havre faces its first big challenge of the young season Saturday with the Havre Invitational Meet. Both Great Falls schools will attend along with Kalispell. Swimming is slated to begin shortly after noon and will end around 3 p.m.
"Kalispell has an incredible amount of swimmers. They are always real tough to beat," O'Donnell said. "If our swimmers can beat the Great Falls schools, that would be a great win for them. I'd be really happy with that.
"It's really nice for a Class A school to beat a AA school."
O'Donnell is excited for all of her swimmers to finally swim at a meet Saturday. Due to the Havre High senior ball, only a few swimmers made the trip to Kalispell last weekend.
"We've been swimming for a whole month," O'Donnell said. "I'm excited for this weekend. It's the first meet that all the swimmers are together."
Along with finally getting to see her whole team compete, O'Donnell said there are a few individual events she is particularly anxious to watch.
"Individually, I am excited to see Scott swim his 50 and 100 free, Maureen swim her 50 free and Maureen and Gwen swim their breaststroke," she said. "As a team, the 200 medley relay and girls' 200 free relay will be good, the same two relays for the boys will do well, too."