“These kids have been around Laramie swimming for an awfully long time, and they have meant a whole lot to the Laramie High program through the years,” Laramie High Coach Tom Hudson said.
Hudson has seen just about everything during 29 seasons of coaching the Lady Plainsmen swimming and diving team. He doesn’t shy away from giving credit where it is due, especially when unnoticed by most.
He was talking about Madie Jablin, Alyssa Dale and Heidi Schroeder — three seniors who are big reasons the Lady Plainsmen are experiencing one of the best stretches in program history.
“They have contributed in so many different ways, starting out more as strong depth swimmers,” Hudson said. “Now that they are seniors, we are counting on them to score a bunch of points for the team.”
The Lady Plainsmen begin their quest for a third-straight and 14th overall state championship today at the Campbell County Aquatic Center. The diving preliminaries and semifinals start at 3:30 p.m., followed by the swimming prelims about 30 minutes after. The finals start at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The LHS girls put together a third consecutive season undefeated in duals with a combined record of 43-0. Laramie seniors Olivia McPherson and Sage Morton, junior Katie McPherson, sophomore Anna Roesler and sophomore diver Natalie Six tallied an impressive list of wins throughout the season. They also set numerous pool and school records along the way in their respective events.
But also hanging around near the top of the results, and not forgotten when adding team scores are Jablin, Dale and Schroeder. All three are Laramie natives who started swimming at early ages and competed in the offseason with the Laramie Swim Club.
“I love swimming because it has taught me a lot of valuable lessons — hard work, dedication and sportsmanship — how to interact with people, and be an individual while at the same time as part of a team,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder has qualified for state in the 200-yard freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 500 freestyle and 100 breaststroke. Her main events are the 200 and 100 freestyle with the 100 being her favorite.
“It’s longer than the 50 free, but not the longest race,” Schroeder said. “It’s still really fast and really competitive, and I love that.”
Jablin qualified in the 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 100 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Her main events are the 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke with the long-distance 500 freestyle her preferred event.
“I have never really been a good sprinter, so I like the 500 free because it is something I can do,” Jablin said. “You kind of have to sprint throughout the whole race and it’s (between) being a really long race and kind of short. It balances sprinting and pacing yourself.”
Dale has qualified in the 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Her best events are the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley, and it’s the combination of strokes in the medley that is her favorite.
“It mixes it up, and kind of weird because my other favorite event is the 500 free,” Dale said. “I feel accomplished after swimming the 500, although while I’m swimming it can be the most boring event. With the 200 IM, every 50 yards you just sprint and feel so fast.”
Dale said it can be hard to be efficient for all strokes in the medley, and “I used to have a really bad butterfly, but my other strokes could make up for it. But now the butterfly is my second-best stroke. It is hard because you have constantly improve your techniques and remember which stroke you are doing off each wall.”
All three agree that this team and season are special to close out their prep careers.
“It’s been amazing,” Schroeder said. “The sportsmanship we’ve had has been the best in all my years on the team. We worked really hard to make it as memorable as possible with team bonding and always being there for each other.”
The championship meet
The 2017 state championships came down to winning the final 400 freestyle relay, which the Lady Plainsmen won with a state record 3 minutes, 33.16 seconds. Laramie won its first title since 2001 with 258 points, and Sheridan was second at 248.
The Lady Plainsmen dominated the state championships last season from start to finish for 318 points and the best-ever finish at a state meet for the LHS girls. Green River was runner-up at 189.
After graduating a large class of 12 seniors from last season, the Lady Plainsmen returned 15 state qualifiers and added seven more to meet Hudson’s early-season goal of 22.
“We are the favorites, which is a position we are still not 100 percent used to,” Hudson said. “But we are comfortable with that, and still take nothing for granted. We have a lot of respect for what Cheyenne Central has done with the exact same number of state qualifiers as we have. Green River and Campbell County are certainly never to be discounted. We have a lot of respect for what they do in those programs, so we will have to be on our toes to make sure everything in perfect.
“We are going for a state title and hoping to win some events, maybe get some records and maybe post some All-America times. We have a lot of goals to hopefully accomplish.”
A first for state
There will be a 50 freestyle exhibition race this year before the Class 3A and 4A finals at the state meet.
“This is something that was brought forward from a Sheridan swimmer, senior Zoe Robison,” Hudson said. “She brought the idea to the state board about some way to allow special needs swimmers participate at state — these kids mean so much for every program.”
Competing for LHS will be seniors Toni Hamann and Marygrace Buckner.