It's only the beginning of January, but it's also an already important time of the season for the Havre High boys and girls swim teams.
The Blue Ponies come out of the holiday break set to host the Class A Invitational Saturday at the Havre Community Pool. And because it's the only time Havre is in the pool against its only two Class A rivals, it's a big meet for the Ponies, as well as for the visiting Billings Central Rams and Hardin Bulldogs.
Havre, Billings Central and Hardin will all compete for the 2012 Class A state boys and girls championships next month in Hardin, so Saturday's meet at the Havre Community Pool will give the team's an idea of who's going to be favored, and where team's will need to be strong once they get to state.
For the Blue Pony boys, the relays will be where Havre could score a lot of points, both this weekend and beyond. The Ponies have looked sharp in all three relays this season, while individually, Nick Rhines, Taylor Riphenburg, Desmond Fialkosky and Bryant O'Leary have all placed high at one point or another this season, and should score well Saturday.
The HHS girls also have strong relay teams, and the Ponies are strong in the individual freestyle races. Lieza Reighard is having an outstanding season for the Ponies, while Morgan Jappe and Hannah Pepprock have also been very good. Skylar Vukasin, Jackie Martin, Megan Smith and Mackenna Barkus also give HHS added depth.
But both Pony teams are facing an uphill battle in the water this weekend. Both Billings Central squads are among the best in the state, and that includes all of Class AA as well. The Rams are loaded with talented swimmer in almost every discipline, and they are coming off a magical 2012 season in which they claimed both Class A state titles. Hardin is also strong, especially on the girls side, so every race this weekend will be a competitive one.
The Class A Invitational will get underway at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Havre Community Pool. The meet is the final time the Ponies will race in Havre this season.
Havre High's Morgan Jappe swims the breaststroke during the 2012 Havre Invitational swim meet last month. The Ponies will swim against Billings Central and Hardin in Saturday's Class A Invite at the Havre Community Pool.