The Laramie High girls swimming and diving team started the Wyoming Class 4A state meet with a list of goals.
The Lady Plainsmen checked them off one by one during Friday morning’s finals, and ran away with their fourth consecutive state championship.
Laramie finished the meet with 370.5 points, while runner-up Cheyenne Central had 251.
“Early in the year, we were pretty even with Central, and maybe even a tiny bit ahead of them,” 30-year LHS coach Tom Hudson said. “As the year progressed, our team got better and better. Coming into the state meet, I hoped we would have about a 45-point advantage.
“But (Thursday’s preliminaries) went about as well as I ever could have imagined. We got kids into the top six and top 12 everywhere we needed to. One of our goals was to win two relays, and we did that. Any time you do that, you’re giving yourself a great chance at a team win.”
The Lady Plainsmen had 20 individual finalists, and advanced to the finals in all three relays. They walked away with six event wins.
That included victories from senior Katie McPherson in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. Her winning time of 23.42 seconds in the 50 was good enough to meet the standard for All-American consideration from the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association. She stopped the clock in 52.20 seconds in the 100 to repeat in that event.
“I wasn’t even thinking about my times, I was just trying to push as hard as I could,” McPherson said. “I’m so glad I could get All-American consideration. It makes me even more excited to see what I can do the next four years in college.”
McPherson was voted both athlete of the meet and athlete of the year by the state’s coaches. She will sign a national letter of intent to continue her career at the University of Wyoming on Wednesday.
Friday’s meet was a fitting end to McPherson's prep career, Hudson said.
“She is such a great swimmer and, in a way, she was kind of overshadowed by her older sister the last four years,” Hudson said, referring to Olivia McPherson. “This was Katie’s year to shine. She worked really hard, put in the time and the effort and was able to win the 100 free for the second year in a row, and make it five years in a row a McPherson has won the 50 free.
“Getting an All-American consideration time isn’t easy to do, so I’m really happy she could close out her career that way.”
Junior Natalie Six placed second in 1-meter diving, scoring 422.45 points on the springboard to earn All-American consideration. Her final dive added 50 points to her total.
Natrona County’s Gabriella Haigler claimed her third diving state title with 445.40 points.
“That was a really great dive to finish my junior season on,” said Six, who also was state runner-up as a sophomore. “(Haigler) is such a great diver, and I always get super-excited and a little nervous to go up against her.
“It’s always fun to compete against her and see how it goes. I think my nerves might have gotten the best of me, but I’m still really happy with how I did.”
The Lady Plainsmen also had juniors Mallorie Hamel (third), Katrina Yurista (fourth) and senior Maddie Appelhans (sixth) reach the finals. In all, Laramie got 45 team points from diving alone.
“They have a lot of good dives and they never have horrible dives,” said Hudson, who was voted the state’s coach of the year. “They’re so consistent and well-coached that they just keep plugging away.
“I was so happy for (Six) because she works so hard and dives year-round. Hopefully, she can be the state champion next year.”
Laramie diving coach Ben Herdt was voted co-assistant coach of the year.
Junior Anna Roesler touched the wall first in the 100 butterfly (57.01 seconds), and was runner-up in the 200 individual medley (2 minutes, 13.88 seconds).
“I felt really strong in my 100 fly, but I went off a little slow in the 200 IM,” Roesler said. “I started off good in the fly (portion of the IM), but I was a little slow in my tempo on the backstroke. I just tried to bring the race home on my freestyle.”
Sophomore Ashyln Mathes won the 500 freestyle in 5:18.04, which was nearly 11 seconds faster than the runner-up. She also was second in the 200 free (1:56.61).
“There were a couple times I hit the wall and thought, ‘Oh, that did not feel the way it should have,’” Mathes said. “But I picked up the pace. By the end, I was able to keep it moving and get the times I wanted.”
McPherson, Mathes, Roesler and sophomore Therese Richardson joined forces to win the 200 free relay (1:37.96). McPherson, Mathes, Roesler and senior Kenadi Olaveson teamed up to close the meet with a win in the 400 free relay (3:36.36).
Richardson, sophomore Maya Peterson, junior Maya McReynolds and senior Isabel Arnold placed third in the 200 medley relay (1:53.01).
McReynolds placed third in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.64). Richardson was fourth in both the 50 free (24.87) and 100 butterfly (1:01.82). Peterson captured fourth in the 100 backstroke (1:02.68).
Laramie also got fifth-place finishes from juniors Libby Moore (200 free) and Kayley Yother (100 back). Olaveson (100 fly), sophomore Kenna Davis (200 IM and 100 back) and freshman Braley Smith (500 free) made the podium by finishing sixth in their respective events.