In many cases, a programs’ success greatly depends on its senior athletes and senior leadership. Seniors bring a lot of experience to prep athletics, and if those same experienced athletes can step up and take over the leadership roles, teams typically gain an edge.
The senior swimmers on this year’s Havre High swim teams are perfect examples.
HHS has 13 seniors on the roster this season, including eight whicht have really stepped up, and will represent the Ponies at the state swim meet next weekend in Hardin.
Austin After Buffalo, Ben Broadhead, Karlee Myers, Charlie O’Donnell, Lexi Olson and Derek Van Dessel were a part of the senior group this season, while Paul Jeffery, Bryant O’Leary, Nick Rhines, Desmond Fialkosky, Skylar Vukasin, Samantha French and Larissa Price earned an extended senior season and will swim at the state swimming meet.
“This senior class was filled with good leaders,” Havre High head coach Chris Inman said. “They have been very hardworking, and that showed in their times this season. They have also been a great and very fun class to have.”
All the seniors stepped up this season, but the seven individuals that qualified to swim at state really took over the leadership role. Not only were they vocal in guiding the rest of the team, when they were in the water, it was all business. And being part of the program for the last four years, they had no problem stepping up and carrying the load.
“They have been great,” Inman said. “Not only are they vocal, but they also lead by example. Swimmers like Desmond and Nick, their times have been absolutely amazing, especially where they started out three years ago compared to where they are at now. These seniors have improved a lot and have worked hard, and it shows.”
Fialkosky and Rhines have been amongst the top boys in the program, and have been swimming at state since their sophomore seasons. And swimming for the Ponies and Inman has been a great experience.
“It has been awesome,” Rhines said. “And Chris is such a great coach and we are all close friends. Everybody is friendly and this is a great sport, that is what keeps kids coming out, but Chris is always in a good mood and cares about all of us so much.”
Price has also had a standout career with the Ponies for the girls’ team, and has had nothing but great experiences the last four seasons. It is hard work being a successful swimmer, but the joy and fun of the program makes it all worth it as well.
“It has been hard because we have had our ups and downs over the years,” Price said. “But Chris is such an amazing coach and pushes us so hard. She has so much enthusiasm for coaching and it has been a lot of fun swimming for her. But we are such a tight-knit family, and whether we win or lose, we are always so close. Most of my lasting friendships were made through swimming.
“Before our relays we have dances that we do,” Price added. “Just funny things like that. It is not entirely stressful, we have a lot of fun while we are working really, really hard.”
The senior group is focused on finishing their season strong, but know they have their work cut out for them. The HHS girls are looking to once again grab a No. 1 team title after finishing third last year and second the year before. The HHS boys are also looking stay amongst the state’s top, as they finished first three years ago, and third last season.
“We have talked about that,” Inman said. “But unfortunately we have to face a Billings Central team that has Class AA swimmers on it. They should be able to get second or third overall in the state and it is hard for us to compete against that, but as long as we swim our best, that is all we can ask. But these kids would be very deserving of a state trophy, they have worked so hard.”
The Blue Ponies head to the state swim meet next Friday and Saturday in Hardin.