GILLETTE — 1999. A year that introduced us to innocent, pigtailed Britney Spears.
We were only three books into the Harry Potter series, and Haley Joel Osment could somehow see dead people — spoiler alert, Bruce is dead the whole time.
It also marked the last time the Sheridan High School girls swim team finished in the top two at the state meet. The Lady Broncs had some ups and a lot more downs during a 17-year stretch, but fighting for a state championship hadn’t really been on the radar for nearly two decades.
Sheridan fought tooth and nail with the Laramie Lady Plainsmen during the 2017 4A state meet, which came down to the final race.
The Lady Broncs finished runner-up for the first time in most of the swimmers’ lifetimes.
Ten points separated Sheridan from Laramie when the stress-filled day finally came to an end. The Lady Broncs had 248 points; Laramie had 258.
But mere seconds actually separated the two teams.
In the 200-yard freestyle relay, the Lady Plainsmen edged Sheridan by .66 seconds. Then, in the final race of the day, Laramie won by 1.31 seconds.
The culminating event — the 400-yard freestyle relay — had the entire Campbell County Aquatic Center on edge. Sheridan had cut a 27-point Laramie lead down to 4. No winner could be crowned until the last hand touched the wall.
Sheridan entered the day three seconds slower than Laramie. In fact, the Lady Broncs finished third in Friday’s prelims behind Laramie and Thunder Basin. They needed to make up some ground.
And Laramie hadn’t won a girls swimming title since 2001, so a lot rode on the final race. Both teams felt the pressure of the uncharted waters.
SHS assistant coach Adam Martin told the team’s non-relay swimmers to cheer louder than they had all day; head coach Brent Moore yelled, whistled and paced. It was all hands on deck.
But once the horn sounded, it came down to the girls in the pool.
The teams went stroke for stroke. Laramie led early, and Sheridan caught up. Then, the Lady Plainsmen made a move down the stretch. All eyes shot to the scoreboard. Three minutes, 34.47 seconds for Sheridan; 3 minutes, 33.16 seconds for Laramie.
A heartbreaking blow for the Lady Broncs, no doubt. Eyes were hardly dry as teams lined up around the podium. Both teams knew the results. Sheridan came so close.
The Lady Broncs wanted so badly to hoist their first state title since 1985. Instead, they’d settle for second place, but it wasn’t from lack of effort.
Sheridan finished the meet with seven school records out of the 12 events — one of which was 30 years old. The Lady Broncs had eight All-State swims, and they pushed a much larger Laramie team to the very edge.
“It took two state records to beat us in both those relays,” Sheridan head coach Brent Moore said after the meet. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Sheridan came out of the gate swinging, winning the 200-yard medley relay, the meet’s first event. That was the first school record.
Then came second-place finish for Molly Green in event two, the 200-yard freestyle — and a school record. The Lady Broncs went on to set records in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle relay, 100-yard backstroke, 400-yard freestyle relay and the 100-yard breaststroke, which had stood since 1987.
Jadyn Mullikin, Taylor Baldacci, Green, Pippin Robison, Zoe Robison, Piper Carroll and Olivia Thoney all brought home All-State swims. Mullikin, Baldacci, Green, Pippin Robison and Zoe Robison all won at least one individual or relay state title.
It wasn’t a championship, but it certainly wasn’t a loss.
“They wanted to win; we wanted it really bad,” Moore said of his team. “But it doesn’t define this group of girls. They’ll do bigger and better things.”
The 18-year drought haunted Sheridan swimming, and when Moore first took over the program seven years ago, he admitted reaching the level the 2017 Lady Broncs finished hadn’t even crossed his mind. But slowly and methodically, the program grew into a contender.
This year’s team litters the record books and cemented a new era for Sheridan High School. It was truly historic, no matter the final standings.
“We said if we swim our tails off and have great swims and walk out of here second, we’re going to walk away proud,” Moore said. “And we’ll do that. It stings a little bit, but oh my gosh, we could not be more proud.”
Sheridan’s results from the state meet:
*NEW SCHOOL RECORD
1. 200-yard medley relay (Mullikin, Baldacci, Pippin Robison, Zoe Robison) 1:48.27*
1. 100-yard backstroke (Green) 58.13*
2. 200-yard freestyle (Green) 1:54.04*
2. 200-yard IM (Zoe Robison) 2:12.26
2. 100-yard butterfly (Baldacci) 58.94
2. 200-yard freestyle relay (Carroll, Green, Baldacci, Zoe Robison) 1:37.34*
2. 100-yard backstroke (Carroll) 59.34
2. 100-yard breaststroke (Baldacci) 1:05.86*
2. 400-yard freestyle relay (Pippin Robison, Carroll, Thoney, Green) 3:34.47*
3. 200-yard IM (Pippin Robison) 2:13.20
3. 100-yard butterfly (Pippin Robison) 59.03
3. 100-yard freestyle (Carroll) 52.58*
4. 100-yard breastroke (Zoe Robison) 1:07.93
6. 100-yard freestyle (Thoney) 56.29
7. 50-yard freestyle (Kelly Moodry) 25.84
7. 100-yard breaststroke (Jenna Frederickson) 1:10.84
8. 200-yard IM (Mullikin) 2:19.34
9. 100-yard freestyle (Teal Scheuber) 57.23
11. 200-yard freestyle (Thoney) 2:05.15
11. 50-yard freestyle (Scheuber) 26.59