By Susan Gray Gose
Taking its smallest team in three years and facing tougher than usual competition, the Lander Valley High girls swimming and diving team nevertheless pulled off a big victory in Laramie last weekend, winning the Wyoming 3A State title by over 100 points. Lander wrapped up the meet with 279 points compared to runner-up Powell’s 172, Buffalo’s 154, and Lyman’s 139 in the field of 13 teams. Lander’s win included four new school records and one new state record, making this one of the smallest but fastest girls’ teams in the school’s history.
The Tigers made a statement in the first race. The 200-yard medley team of junior Olivia Fowler on backstroke, senior McKenzie Lilygren on breaststroke, senior Anastasia Cornale on fly, and senior Molly Fehringer on freestyle won the preliminaries with a new state record 1:51.00, breaking one held by Jackson. Lyman, who beat Lander in the event at the conference meet, touched in a distant second 1:55. After that, swimmer after swimmer for the Tigers dropped time and landed themselves in top-12 finals.
“Before every state meet, we question our season,” said Head Coach Shawna Morgan, who was honored as Coach of the Year at the meet. “Did we pick the right workouts? Did we work them hard enough? Did we work them too hard? Did we pick the right events for them to swim at state? Did we pick the right dives for them to do? And most of all, we question our taper. Then the first race happens, and all those questions go out the window.”
Lander’s championship was bolstered by six wins in the 12 events. In addition to the opening relay, the foursome of Fowler, Cornale, freshman Ashlon Koch, and junior Lily Gose closed the meet with a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay, outpacing Buffalo by seven seconds and posting a new LVHS record in 1:43.69.
Fowler added a pair of firsts in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke, trouncing her competition, despite entering the meet seeded fifth and second in those events. Cornale, an Italian exchange student living with the Fowler family for the year, matched her host sister with big wins in the 100-yard butterfly and the 500-yard freestyle—taking first by a body-length in the fly and a pool-length in the 500. In the fly, Cornale lowered her L.V.H.S. record to 58.73. She was named Athlete of the Meet for her efforts.
Lilygren touched for third place in a competitive 100-yard breaststroke in which the winner set a new Wyoming state record. Lilygren was fast enough to set a new LVHS record in 1:09.34, breaking one held by Erin Stotts.
Koch swam hard for the team in her first year, placing second in both the 200-yard individual medley and 500-yard freestyle. Lilygren placed third in the 200-yard I.M., while Gose took seventh in the 200-yard freestyle and eighth in the 500-yard freestyle.
The fly was a strong race for Lander as the team not only took first but also saw junior Makayla McPherson touch in sixth and senior Noelle Harris take eighth. McPherson also took seventh in the 200-yard I.M. while Harris grabbed eighth.
The Tigers also dominated the backstroke. Behind Fowler, junior Leah Brown placed fourth and sophomore Kristen McPherson finished seventh.
In the sprints, Brown and Fehringer finished seventh and ninth in the 50-yard freestyle, while in the 100-yard freestyle sophomore Anja Harms sprinted to seventh and Fehringer touched at 12th. The team of Brown, Lilygren, Fehringer and Koch also sprinted to second in a fast 200-yard freestyle relay, despite entering the meet seeded fifth.
“I’ll never stop being amazed at how our girls show up to compete at state,” said Morgan. “They wanted to win, and you could see that in each and every one of their performances.”
She added: “I don’t think we would have gotten where we did without the other teams pushing us. Kudos to the athletes and coaches of all the 3A teams for their performances all season long. Events were a lot faster this year, and races at state were close and fun to watch.”
Morgan also thanked her fellow coaches Tim Hester and diving coach Faith Hamilton, whom she said, “I can’t do anything without. They keep me calm and help with everything.”
In diving, senior Lillian Chandler finished the preliminaries in 14th, out of the point-scoring top-12, but with a solid performance for a first year diver.
Finally, Morgan said: “Big thanks to all the parents for their support throughout the season, to our administrators for coming to the meets all season long and cheering for us, to the LVHS staff members for helping us through all of our absences, and to the Lander community for our swimming-diving traditions! I’m truly honored to be part of the amazing Lander swimming and diving family.”
In a matter of weeks, Morgan, Hester, and Hamilton will be back at the Lander pool to work with the boys’ team who will chase their 24th state swimming and diving title.
For their efforts, Cornale, Fehringer, Fowler, Gose, Koch, and Lilygren were named to the All-State Swimming and Diving Team.
3A GIRLS STATE SWIM & DIVE CHAMPIONSHIP, Laramie, Wy, Nov. 2-3, 2018:
Team Scores: 1. Lander 279, 2. Powell 172, 3. Buffalo 154, 4. Lyman 139, 5. Worland 137, 6. Jackson 110, 7. Sublette 92, 8. Cody 77, 9. Riverton 64, 10. Douglas 54, 11. Kemmerer 50, 12. Newcastle 32, 13. Rawlins 16
Final Results: (Top-6 competed in A-Finals. Top-12 scored points.)
200 Yard Medley Relay: 1. Lander (Olivia Fowler, McKenzie Lilygren, Anastasia Cornale, Molly Fehringer) 1:51.96* (*New 3A State record and LVHS school record of 1:51.00 during preliminaries.)
200 Yard Freestyle: 1. Olivia Fowler LAN 2:03.57, 7. Lily Gose LAN 2:09.93
200 Yard IM: 1. Juli Warren WOR 2:14.31, 2. Ashlon Koch LAN 2:19.80, 3. McKenzie Lilygren LAN 2:20.06, 7. Makayla McPherson LAN 2:26.61, 8. Noelle Harris LAN 2:28.68
50 Yard Freestyle: 1. Emi Wagner BUF 24.62, 7. Leah Brown LAN 26.05, 9. Molly Fehringer LAN 26.24 (2nd alternate Anja Harms LAN 26.71)
1 Meter Diving: 1. Mo McPherson DOU 366.55 (2nd alternate Lillian Chandler LAN)
100 Yard Butterfly: 1. Anastasia Cornale LAN 58.73, 6. Makayla McPherson LAN 1:06.62, 8. Noelle Harris LAN 1:07.59 (1st alternate Li Platz LAN 1:10.41)
100 Yard Freestyle: 1. Josie Dike RIV 55.08, 7. Anja Harms LAN 57.73, 12. Molly Fehringer LAN 59.58
500 Yard Freestyle: 1. Anastasia Cornale LAN 5:25.20, 2. Ashlon Koch LAN 5:45.15, 8. Lily Gose LAN 5:53.67
200 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1. Buffalo 1:41.73, 2. Lander (Leah Brown, Molly Fehringer, McKenzie Lilygren, Ashlon Koch) 1:43.58
100 Yard Backstroke: 1. Olivia Fowler LAN 1:00.56, 4. Leah Brown LAN 1:05.65, 7. Kristen McPherson LAN 1:06.91
100 Yard Breaststroke: 1. Brynlee Busskohl LYM 1:07.36 (New State record), 2. Juli Warren WOR 1:08.57, 3. McKenzie Lilygren LAN 1:09.34** (**New LVHS School record), (2nd alternate McKella Stigers LAN 1:17.39)
400 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1. Lander (Olivia Fowler, Lily Gose, Ashlon Koch, Anastasia Cornale) 3:43.69*** (***New LVHS School record.)