(Lander, WY) – Anyone involved with Lander swimming is familiar with the Bruce Gresly saying, “It all comes down to the last relay,” which was never more true than on Friday, November 5th at the 2021 class 3A girls Winter State meet in Gillette.
The last relay of a high school swim meet is the 400 Yard Freestyle, where four swimmers from the team each swim 100 yards.
According to coach Shawna Morgan, this year’s relay swimmers had all already competed in two individual events and another relay, so they were tired.
Morgan went on to say the swimmers watched their teammates swim and dive their hearts out to claw ahead of heavily favored Green River in the standings, and were determined to do their best.
Green River had stacked their 400 relay with their fastest freestyle swimmers, including three who had just become state champions in other events.
The Lander team was a full three seconds behind Green River in the preliminary rounds, with it initially looking unlikely that they could pass them while also staying ahead Cody in the relay.
The Cody relay team featured Tara Joyce as the anchor leg swimmer, who had just set two state records at the meet including the 100 freestyle that she would be swimming on the relay.
The buzzer sounded to start, and Lander’s Lara Robertson managed a great swim with a 56.74 split.
Green River was ahead by less than a body length, with Asha Reid and Emily Anderson swimming the middle two legs at 57.54 and 57.40 respectively.
Lander’s Lillyan Hamilton dove in for the final leg, swimming as hard as Joyce, who dove in 7.64 seconds later.
Joyce closed in quickly, but Hamilton fought to the end finishing her leg in 57.65, Joyce finishing aa 51.39 second anchor leg.
Green River finished first in 3:44.38, Lander second in 3:49.33, and Cody third in 3:50.71.
The final points were tallied and history was made.
For the first time in Wyoming high school swimming, there was a tie for the state championship, and Green River and Lander each had 245 points to become 3A Co-Champions.
Green River was favored going into the meet as returning champions and based on best times of individuals entering the meet, however, coaches can only enter swimmers in two individual events and a maximum of two relays.
“Winning championships often comes down to strategy, team depth, gritty performances in the preliminary round to qualify for finals, and, of course, the last relay,” Coach Morgan commented.
“For example, Green River stacked that 400 Yard Freestyle relay at the expense of their 200 Yard Freestyle relay. They won the final event, but their 200 Yard Freestyle relay dropped to 8th place.”
Lander coaches spread their swimmers evenly over the relays, and had some great performances from the team depth to earn enough points to tie.
For Lander, the meet started well in preliminaries on Thursday afternoon, with both divers, Divya Forbis and Sophie Shearin, qualifying for finals.
Lander swam the top qualifying time in preliminaries in the 200 Yard Medley relay, with Reid, Lainy Duncan, Ashlon Koch, and Robertson contributing.
The next event was the 200 Yard Freestyle, where junior Katelyn Brinda dropped 5.61 seconds from her season best to grab a spot in consolation finals.
Freshman Lara Robertson dropped 6.14 seconds to move into the second seed going into finals as well.
Lander placed three swimmers in finals in the next event, the 200 Yard IM: Maddie Flint (dropping 9.36 seconds), Lainy Duncan (dropping 2.91 seconds), and Emily Anderson (dropping 12.66 seconds).
“Clearly, taper had kicked in and the girls were starting to believe they could do great things,” stated Coach Morgan.
Preliminaries continued in that fashion with time drops and lots of qualifiers for Lander, with all three relays qualifying for finals.
Additional Lander individual swims advancing to finals were: Lillyan Hamilton (50 freestyle and 100 freestyle), Sharon McMahon (100 yard butterfly), Ashlon Koch (100 yard butterfly and 100 yard backstroke), Asha Reid (100 yard butterfly and 100 yard backstroke), Lara Robertson (500 yard freestyle), Katelyn Brinda (500 yard freestyle), Lainy Duncan (100 yard breaststroke), and Emily Anderson (100 yard breaststroke).
Despite all these qualifiers Green River was still listed as the favorite going into the finals.
“Friday’s finals were a complete team effort. Each time a Lander athlete slipped a place or two in their event from prelims, the next one up put in an extraordinary effort and moved up a place or more,” Morgan continued.
Green River held the lead through the first several events, but had no swimmers in the finals of the butterfly or the 100 yard freestyle.
In the last third of the meet, Lander would need to hold their slim lead.
Lander’s 200 yard freestyle relay touched first while Green River’s took 8th place.
Green River also had individual winners in the backstroke and the breaststroke, but Lander scored enough points to still be in the team lead going into that final relay.
For the meet, Lander’s top finisher was senior Ashlon Koch, who won the 100 yard butterfly and also placed third in the 100 yard backstroke.
Lander freshman Lara Robertson earned two second places in the 200 yard freestyle and the 500 yard freestyle.
Both Koch and Robertson earned All-State honors along with the members of the first-place 200 yard freestyle —Koch, Lainy Duncan, Emily Anderson, and Lillyan Hamilton.
Other individual top scorers for Lander were: sophomore Emily Anderson (3rd in both the 200 yard IM and 100 yard breaststroke), junior Lillyan Hamilton (3rd in 50 yard freestyle and 4th in 100 yard freestyle), senior Asha Reid (4th in 100 yard backstroke and 4th in 100 yard butterfly), and junior Lainy Duncan (4th in 200 yard IM and 7th in 100 yard breaststroke).
Junior Lander divers Divya Forbis (8th place) and Sophie Shearin (12th place) scored in the diving event.
Additional points were earned by junior Katelyn Brinda (11th in the 200 yard freestyle and 12th in the 500 yard freestyle), sophomore Maddie Flint (11th in the 200 yard IM), and sophomore Sharon McMahon (7th in the 100 yard butterfly).
Every single one of these points was needed for the team to earn the co-championship.
Even the girls who did not make it to finals helped the team along with continued cheering and energy, with the team earning a victory parade Friday night.
Head Coach Shawna Morgan also earned 3A Girls Swim Coach of the Year, a fitting reward after guiding the team (along with assistants Tim Hester and Faith Hamilton) through a season filled with injury, illness, and family loss.
Coach Morgan had this to say about the meet:
“I was so proud of each and every girl and their performance over the weekend. They swam and dove their hearts out and everything came together they way it was intended.
“It was a historic meet. The first ever tie for a championship in Wyoming history. It was by far the most fun meet I’ve ever witnessed. Our fans that made the trip to Gillette were above and beyond the best!
“The energy they projected helped our girls seal the championship. Our team motto was to create memories, well this meet will not only be one for the history books but will forever be etched in our memories. I was truly honored to be part of it.
“Coaching these girls has been a gift that I wouldn’t trade for anything. They are part of my family and I love each and everyone of them and love that they got to experience being a part of Wyoming sports history.
“I would like to thank Tim Hester and Faith Hamilton for being the best assistant coaches anyone could ask for! You guys are my rocks and the girls are lucky to have you!
“Thank you to the parents of which none of this would be possible! We can’t do what we do without you and your support! Breakfasts rocked this year! To the school administration and teachers, thank you for your continued support!
“To the town of Lander, we represented you well at state and won with grace. We will continue to do right by you and thank you for always supporting us and rooting us on! Clearly, you can’t count the Lander team out!”
The above and below information was provided to County 10 by Lander Swimming.
Wyoming 3A Girls State Championships
Gillette Aquatic Center, November 4-5, 2021 (Results as reported on Meet Mobile App) –
PRELIMS (top 3 finishers and additional Lander finishers):
200 Yard Medley Relay: 1) Lander 1:53.92, 2) Green River 1:54.46, 3) Powell 1:59.74
200 Yard Freestyle: 1) T. Joyce COD 1:54.30, 2) L. Robertson LAN 2:03.17, 12) K. Brinda LAN 2:13.06
200 Yard IM: 1) M. Lambert BUF 2:14.88, 2) E. Anderson LAN 2:16.22, 3) L. Munoz GRV 2:16.53, 4) L. Duncan LAN 2:22.27, 11) M. Flint LAN 2:30.74
50 Freestyle: 1) T. Smith GRV 24.86, 2) E. Hamblin LYM 25.15, 3) L. Hamilton LAN 25.89
Diving (through 8 dives): 1) K. Jensen POW 244.40, 2) Z. Maez GRV 234.00, 3) O. Maertens BUF 226.90, 8) D. Forbis LAN 187.50, 11) S. Shearin LAN 178.70
100 Yard Butterfly: 1) A. Koch LAN 1:00.74, 2) P. Yost DOU 1:01.72, 3) S. Hattan SUB 1:03.67, 5) A. Reid LAN 1:06.49, 10) S. McMahon LAN 1:09.13, 15) M. Flint LAN 1:10.97
100 Yard Freestyle: 1) T. Joyce COD 51.80, 2) E. Hamblin LYM 55.50, 3) L. Hamilton LAN 57.28, 18) A. Nachazel LAN 1:00.66
500 Yard Freestyle: 1) C. Clark GRV 5:33.24, 2) L. Robertson LAN 5:38.34, 3) P. Bower COD 5:41.66, 9) K. Brinda 5:59.36
200 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1) Lander 1:44.26, 2) Buffalo 1:45.98, 3) Douglas 1:46.40
100 Yard Backstroke: 1) T. Smith GRV 1:00.32, 2) M. Lambert BUF 1:00.57, 3) A. Koch LAN 1:01.64, 4) A. Reid 1:02.44, 15) K. Plaisted LAN 1:11.72, 18) A. Applegate LAN 1:13.74
100 Yard Breaststroke: 1) L. Munoz GRV 1:05.14, 2) H. Uhrig GRV 1:07.86, 3) E. Anderson LAN 1:09.08, 7) L. Duncan LAN 1:14.23, 18) D. Forbis LAN 1:19.10
400 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1) Green River 3:46.59, 2) Lander 3:49.37, 3) Cody 3:52.34
FINALS (top 3 finishers and additional Lander finishers):
200 Yard Medley Relay: 1) Green River 1:53.13, 2) Lander 1:53.36, 3) Powell 1:59.04
200 Yard Freestyle: 1) T. Joyce COD 1:51.98, 2) L. Robertson LAN 2:02.69, 3) C. Clark GRV 2:04.53, 11) K Brinda LAN 2:12.67
200 Yard IM: 1) M. Lambert BUF 2:13.98, 2) L. Munoz GRV 2:16. 24, 3) E. Anderson LAN 2:17.56, 4) L. Duncan LAN 2:23.08, 11) M. Flint LAN 2:33.35
50 Yard Freestyle: 1) T. Smith GRV 24.68, 2) E. Hamblin LYM 25.07, 3) L. Hamilton LAN 25.94
Diving: 1) K. Jensen POW 343.20, 2) O. Maertens BUF 326.30, 3) Z. Maez GRV 325.90, 8) D. Forbis LAN 258.50, 10) S. Shearin LAN 249.95
100 Yard Butterfly: 1) A. Koch LAN 1:01.08, 2) P. Yost DOU 1:02.02, 3) S. Hattan SUB 1:04.63, 4) A. Reid LAN 1:05.94, 7) S. McMahon LAN 1:07.70
100 Yard Freestyle: 1) T. Joyce COD 51.49, 2) E. Hamblin LYM 55.91, 3) D. Shoemake DOU 57.74, 4) L. Hamilton LAN 57.89
500 Yard Freestyle: 1) C. Clark GRV 5:33.25, 2) L. Robertson LAN 5:39.28, 3) P. Bower COD 5:43.31, 12) K. Brinda LAN 6:08.61
200 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1) Lander 1:43.22, 2) Buffalo 1:44.23, 3) Douglas 1:45.74
100 Yard Backstroke: 1) T. Smith GRV 1:00.21, 2) M. Lambert 1:00.36, 3) A. Koch LAN 1:01.63, 4) A. Reid LAN 1:02.00
100 Yard Breaststroke: 1) L. Munoz GRV 1:05.03, 2) H. Uhrig GRV 1:08.48, 3) E. Anderson LAN 1:08.82, 7) L. Duncan LAN 1:11.74
400 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1) Green River 3:44.38, 2) Lander 3:49.33, 3) Cody 3:50.71