Photo by Maria Jetkosky
GILLETTE — A preview of the 4A State swimming and diving championship meet took place in Gillette at the Campbell County Aquatics Center on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1 and 2. Swimming and diving teams from 3A and 4A schools will return to the same aquatics center, Thursday - Saturday, Feb. 21-23, with 4A competing in the first two days. Some of the better 3A squads took part in the Gillette Invite, but will not compete against or be scored with the 4A at state, in three weeks, as the Invite allows.
Cheyenne Central continued to prove they are the team to beat, as the Indians won the invite by more than 100 points over the distant-second, hometown Camels, with Laramie right on Gillette’s heels. Central had nine state qualifiers in the 100 freestyle, with a few more on the cusp of reaching the qualifying standards, prior to the Gillette Invite, to give an idea as to their team depth.
The meet awarded 24 points for first place in individual events, with 21 points tallied for second-place finishes, on a descending scale, with 20th place earning one point. Relays added 48 points to a team’s total for first-place finishes. Girls teams, in off-season mode, swam exhibition in individual and relay events at the Gillette Invite.
1. Cheyenne Central Indians, 516
2. Campbell County Camels, 385
3. Laramie Plainsmen, 383.5
4. Rock Springs Tigers, 317
5. Lander Valley Tigers (3A), 258.5
6. Kelly Walsh Trojans, 257.5
7. Buffalo High Bison (3A), 207
8. Cheyenne East Thunderbirds, 201
9. Worland High Warriors (3A), 181
10. Green River Wolves, 169.5
11. Riverton Wolverines, 136
12. Powell High Panthers (3A), 119
13. Evanston Red Devils, 97
14. Cody Broncs (3A), 72
15. Cheyenne South Bison, 66
16. Douglas Bearcats (3A), 44
17. Sheridan Broncs, 41
18. Newcastle Dogies, 6
Campbell County, Laramie and Central went one, two and three in the 200 medley relay to start the boys’ competition. Evanston A scored 10 points with a 16th place finish, with a team comprised Buckley Martin, Sam Symes, Hans Jetkoski-DeFries and Joseph Hopkin.
Garrett Walton turned in a top-10 finish in the 200 freestyle, scoring 16 points for his seventh place finish time of 1:56.20. Lucas Sehorn finished 21st, surpassing the 4A qualifying standard. Carson Constantine, Trevor Randall, Joseph Hopkin and Buckley Martin all exceeded the 3A qualifying standard. Randall had previously qualified in the 200 freestyle.
Colton Johnson swam a 2:24.00 200 IM, achieving the 3A qualifying standard, and just 1.1 seconds off of the 4A standard.
Gabe Halliday, placing 28th, was the Red Devils’ top finisher in the 50 freestyle. Central’s Kyle White had a seed time of 20.58 seconds, and won by over 1 1/2 seconds with a 21.18 time.
Diving was next, and injured Red Devil Toni Heyrend placed 16th, with a 272.95 score, adding five team points to the Red Devils’ total. James Fleming was 24th with 234.90 points. Jake Rehmeier of Laramie scored 426.15 points on 11 dives to win.
Sam Symes, who had already qualified in the 100 butterfly, added two points to the Red Devils’ total, placing 19th, again surpassing the 4A qualifying standard. Levi Jensen of Kelly Walsh turned in an extremely fast 52.94 to place first.
Walton added 16 more points with his second seventh place finish, this time in the 100 freestyle, with a 51.83. Cheyenne Central’s Kyle White smoked the field with an incredible 46.83. The invite record of 46.49 seconds was set in 1998 by G. Fulfer of Worland.
Constantine was Evanston’s top finisher in the 500 freestyle with a 5:55.64, surpassing the 3A mark with ease, but there is quite a disparity between the 6:22.00 standard in 3A, and the 5:40.00 qualifying time in the 4A classification.
The Red Devils’ A Team scored 26 points with their 10th place finish in the 200 freestyle relay. Halliday, Sehorn, Walton and Hopkin swam legs for Evanston.
Johnson finished with a new 1:08.35 in the 100 backstroke, good for 26th place, as the top performer for Evanston. Collin Baldacci of Gillette came in with a 51.31 first place finish time.
Sehorn placed 23rd in the 100 breaststroke to lead Evanston. Clayton Larson, a Laramie senior, took first place honors with a 1:02.14 winning time.
The Red Devils added 22 points, finishing 11th in the 400 freestyle relay. Hans Jetkoski-DeFries, Halliday, Sehorn and Walton teamed up for Evanston’s A entry.
The Herald caught up with diving coach Casey Boyle, who relayed that while Evanston did not have any new state-qualifiers from the invite, “we had some pretty fast times. Joseph Hopkin, for instance, swam the 100 freestyle in less than a minute for the first time, and was part of our 400 freestyle relay team. He had a pretty good meet.”
“Garrett Walton also had a really good meet,” Boyle shared, noting swim coach Joe Delong shuffled Walton, who is qualified in virtually every event, into some different races.
Walton responded with a lifetime best in the pre-invite Friday night, in both the 100 IM and the 100 backstroke, and turned in a season-best in both the 100 and 200 freestyle on Saturday.
“Carson Constantine is right on the verge in the 200 freestyle,” Boyle continued, “and we have a couple of kids close to qualifying in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Colton Johnson also had a good IM time. He’s a second or two away from qualifying in that event. Hopefully, we’ll push a few more over the [4A state qualifying] edge.”
The team has begun and will continue to taper as a whole. Going into this weekend’s South 4A Conference meet, they had dropped their morning workouts, following the Gillette Invite, as the swim team has undergone two-a-day practices for the bulk of the season.
Boyle elaborated on the woes of his diving team. Sophomore Jon Chandler had been experiencing sinus issues and headaches, and after a doctor visit, had to inform his coach he was done for the year. Fellow sophomore Toni Heyrend, the Red Devils’ top diver, who qualified for state as a freshman, bruised his heel hitting the board during practice.
“He was attempting a back one-and-a-half, hit the board and bruised it pretty good on the Thursday practice before we went to Gillette,” Boyle explained. Heyrend did not compete Friday, “but sucked it upon Saturday,” according to his coach, and got through 11 dives.
“He didn’t do too bad, placing in the top 12 in 4A,” Boyle noted, “but you could tell he was hurting.”
Boyle explained freshman James Fleming has been the bright spot.
“He’s really coming along, and has made significant strides, adding more dives to his arsenal, and is displaying more confidence on the board,” Boyle told the Herald.
When asked of the tradition of the team bleaching their hair blonde, Boyle noted the non-qualifiers have graduated to buzz-cuts this past Wednesday, also a tradition, and those who have achieved state qualification will do the same before the state meet.
Following this weekend’s conference meet, hosted by Cheyenne South, Red Devils swimmers who have yet to qualify for state will have one final opportunity in the non-qualifier meet, hosted by Green River on Feb. 14. Athletes who have previously qualified in an event or multiple events, can attempt to do so in events they have not qualified for, and the same is true for swimmers and divers who have yet to qualify in any event.
Most of the team will have the better part of two weeks to taper off their training, in preparation for the state meet, again, scheduled for Feb. 21 and 22. It is hoped that the continuous tapering process, in combination with increased rest, will improve times and add additional state-qualifiers.
Evanston will compete against the three Cheyenne schools — Central, East and South — along with Laramie, Rock Springs and Green River, today and tomorrow, Feb. 8 and 9. Swimming is one of the only sports continuing a throwback North-South split of conferences; most sports in Wyoming’s 4A classification employ an East-West split.