A revolving door steadily keeps pushing talent through for Lady Plainsmen swimming.
When a solid class of seniors exits the Laramie High girls swimming and diving team, another special class of new freshmen enters.
Doing their best to add to the legacy of Laramie swimming early in their prep careers are Ashlyn Mathes, Therese Richardson and Maya Peterson. All three have met qualifying standards this season to compete on Nov. 8-9 during the culminating Class 4A State Girls Swimming and Diving Championships.
Mathes and Richardson qualified in five individual events each and Peterson in two events. That’s 12 total splashes at state from freshmen for longtime LHS coach Tom Hudson.
“After graduating such a great, and big class we had last year of 12 girls, and eight of them state qualifiers, and then to be able to reload with some freshmen like this has really, really helped our team,” Hudson said. “They all have good swimming experience with our feeder program, the Laramie Swim Club and coach Scott Cronk, which keeps this rolling.
“To make a contribution like they have right away as freshmen is special.”
The Lady Plainsmen are back-to-back state champions, adding to their 13 total titles in program history. The LHS girls have also put together three straight undefeated seasons in dual competitions, including a 13-0 record that finished with three wins last weekend in Cheyenne. The three freshmen quickly supplied LHS with more overall depth for valuable team points.
Mathes and Richardson lived in Laramie all their lives and Peterson moved here from Lander about six years ago. All three started swimming competitively at a young age. Mathes and Richardson were involved with the Laramie Swim Club’s Beavers. Peterson began with the Lander Tigers club team before arriving in Laramie.
“I was a little nervous because it was a bigger team,” said Peterson about when she joined the Laramie Swim Club. “But they were supportive and very welcoming.”
Mathis and Richardson both qualified in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley. Mathis also added the 500 freestyle, and Richardson the 100 butterfly.
Hudson said Mathis’ best event is the 500 freestyle, and she expanded that by two more events for her list of favorites.
“It’s hard to decide between the 200 free, 200 IM and 500 free,” said Mathes, who has also been a part of the first-team 400 freestyle relays. “The 200 free has a lot of diversity to give me a chance to be more widespread instead of just doing freestyle. The 200 free has a lot of competition and it’s a fast long-distance race. The 500 free is a race throughout the whole time, but you have to know how to pace yourself — there’s a skill to it.”
Richardson and Hudson equally give approving nods that the 100 butterfly is her specialty, and Richardson adds the 50 freestyle, too.
“I really like the 100 fly and the 50 free,” said Richardson, who also has been a part of the first-team 200 medley relays. “I’ve always been swimming the 100 fly, but if I had a choice of another event it would be the 50 free. It’s my best race besides the 100 fly — it’s kind of easy and I’m definitely a sprinter.”
Peterson’s favorite is the 100 backstroke, and Hudson also prefers putting her in that event.
“I’ve always loved the backstroke, and how when I am done swimming it my whole body just aches,” Peterson said.
Living every day with sore muscles is also new feeling during their first seasons at the prep level.
“It is really tiring, but I’m swimming at my best even though I’m really beat down,” Richardson said.
But everything they’ve heard before about being on this team has met, and exceeded their expectations of becoming a part of the Lady Plainsmen.
“It’s definitely more,” Mathes said. “I always knew there was a good connection with all the swimmers, but I never realized how close this team gets until being on it.”
Peterson added: “It’s so exciting to swim with these girls, especially the seniors such as Olivia (McPherson) and Sage (Morton), who I’ve looked up to growing up,” Peterson said. “It’s really nice to get into the pool with them, swim every morning and night and bond as a team.”
The Lady Plainsmen will compete in Gillette for a pre-invitational at 3 p.m. Friday and a main invitational at 8 a.m. Saturday. It’s the last large competition before the postseason and a warm-up for the state championships also at the Campbell County Aquatic Center.
“We had a lot of challenges throughout the season with trying to get past some of the better teams, and our girls just really rose to those challenges — against Green River, Cheyenne Central and Campbell County — and we’ve come out undefeated,” Hudson said.
“But that is kind of the beginning of our goals. The postseason is what matters to us the most, and trying to win another state championship. We are leading the state in state qualifiers and really focusing on having a great next three weeks.”
Other LHS Olympic sports in action this weekend include:
n The Plainsmen and Lady Plainsmen cross-country teams will compete Friday at the Class 4A West Regional Championships in Casper. The 5-kilometer course will be at the Paradise Valley Golf Club with the girls varsity starting at 2:10 p.m. and the boys at 2:40 p.m.
n The Lady Plainsmen volleyball team (12-14 overall, 2-2 Southeast) will host a pair of non-quadrant matches. LHS will play Natrona County at about 6 p.m. Friday and Sheridan at about noon on Saturday.