MAKING A SPLASH

The Lady Panthers swim and dive team place 3rd at 3A State Championship.

Gabby Paterson

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Ms. Bailey Jackson

The Lady Panther swim and dive team stand on the podium after placing third at the 3A state championship.

The Lady Panthers swimming and diving team entered their post season with a perfect record and went into the 3A Absaroka Conference eager to take their second conference championship title in three years. 

The Lady Panthers won the meet with 302 points, Douglas trailed behind with 241, Cody in third with 207, Worland with 195, Buffalo with 139, Riverton with 74 and Newcastle with 60.

“Our win was powered by a team depth that the other six schools can not match,” Head coach Bob Smartt said. “We had nineteen athletes score individual points for the team.”

Our win was powered by a team depth that the other six schools can not match. We had nineteen athletes score individual points for the team.”

— Bob Smartt

At the meet, the team added their nineteenth and twentieth state qualifiers: Rocky Mountain junior Azurdey Burton in the 100 yard butterfly and Burlington senior Abigail Casey in the 100 yard breaststroke. The Lady Panthers boast the greatest number of state qualifiers in 3A with a total of twenty athletes.

“When I first saw the board, I was shocked,” Burlington senior Abigail Casey said. “I couldn’t believe I had gotten the time I had been working for all season. One of the things that really helped me accomplish [my state cut] was confidence. I knew if I was going to get my time, I had to believe I could do it.”

The Lady Panthers have only won the conference title twice since 1998, but Coach Smartt hopes to keep the title in Powells grasp for years to come. 

“Our challenge is to make winning the conference a habit,” Coach Smartt said. “We graduated substantially more points than [the runner up] Douglas.”

To finish off their season, the Lady Panthers ventured to Gillette for the state championship meet in which they placed third overall with 165 points. Green River and Lander tied for first place with 245 points. 

Due to four of the top swimmers graduating last year and one moving out of state, the Lady Panthers had to train harder than ever to make up for the loss of those swimmers. Four of these five athletes hold spots on the Wall of Fame board for Powell, and were among the top divers and swimmers in school history. 

“We lost seven of the twelve positions on our relay teams from 2020 State,” Coach Smartt said. “So this year was a big challenge for our younger athletes to step up, and step up they did.”

Top point scorers for the team were senior Sydney Legler with 20 individual points, junior Emma Mitchell with 19 points, junior Kami Jensen as the state champion in diving with 16 points and juniors Grace Sapp and Gabby Paterson with 10 points each. Sapp secured a spot on the Wall of Fame with a time of 1:03.74 in the 100 yard backstroke. 

“At conference, I was exactly tied with fifth place [on the Wall of Fame],” Sapp said. “ I was so close I could taste it. I feel like my hard work has finally paid off, and next year I’m shooting for the top.”

After placing fourth at the State meet last year, Jensen moved up to be the state champion in diving and is only 15 points shy of the Wall of Fame. Jensen became the fifth diver in Panther history to take first at state.

“I am beyond excited and thankful to have the title of being a state champion this year,” Jensen said. “There were a lot of stressful practices and hard work that went into preparing for this event. My goals for my senior season are to defend my state title and to learn more dives to help get me there.”

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