SHERIDAN — Fans leaked out of the Sheridan Junior High School pool Saturday. The pool neared its capacity as 10 of the state’s top high school squads, parents, coaches and fans filled in any gaps they could find around the deck at the Sheridan Invite.
The Sheridan High School swim team has become the hottest ticket in town, and the Lady Broncs were determined to put on a show for the hometown fans.
The Sheridan girls finished with 307 points in a down-to-the-wire fight with Laramie, which took second with 279 points. The Lady Broncs had top-three finishes in 10 of the 12 events, won six and set a few new school records.
And while the highlights mounted for coach Brent Moore’s team, the final three races were the most critical.
Heading into event 10, the 100-meter backstroke, Sheridan trailed Laramie by 7 points. But Piper Carroll and Jadyn Mullikin chased each other and the school record, and their first- and second-place finishes gave Sheridan a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Carroll finished in 1 minute, 8.52 seconds, less than a second off the school record set in 2000. Mullikin was right behind her with a 1:10.38 finish. Sheridan led by 1 point after the 100-meter backstroke.
Despite the lead, though, more work had to be done to keep it. With Laramie’s depth and its strongest swimmers readying for event 12, the final two races of the day were far from irrelevant.
And Sheridan shined.
In the 100-meter breaststroke, Taylor Baldacci and Zoe Robison once again raced each other at the front of the pack.
Although they were both edged by Gillette’s Jenny Holwell, the pair took second and third to add to the Lady Broncs’ lead. Baldacci even broke her own school record with a 1:18.04 finish, and Robison finished in 1:19.42.
The lead jumped to a much more comfortable 22 points with one event to go.
But just to be sure, the 400-meter freestyle relay team of Carroll, Pippin Robison, Olivia Thoney and Molly Green finished out the meet with a bang. Their time of 4:09.13 was two-tenths off the school record — which the Lady Broncs set earlier this year — but more importantly, it was a clean race, and it beat Laramie by more than four seconds.
“I think it’s pretty close,” Moore said, comparing the Sheridan Invite with the upcoming state meet. “The only top-tier team that’s not here is Green River. To be honest, that favors us — to get them in the mix and bump someone like Laramie’s bottom scored out of the top 12.”
Sheridan set the tone for the meet right away. After Alicia Thoney qualified for an 11-dive state meet early in the morning — she took seventh with 299.30 points — the record-setting day shifted to the blocks.
The 200-meter medley relay team of Mullikin, Baldacci, Pippin Robison and Zoe Robison touched the wall with a 2:07.51 time, breaking the 2017 school record of 2:07.88.
A third record fell in event nine, the 200-meter freestyle relay, when Carroll, Baldacci, Zoe Robison and Green cruised to a 1:52.34 finish, besting the record set last season by three seconds.
Sheridan had help across the board as Moore continues to add to his arsenal with hard training sessions in the pool throughout the week. Zoe Robison won the 200-meter IM; Green took second in the 200-meter freestyle and 400-meter freestyle; and Carroll was second in the 50-meter freestyle.
While the Lady Broncs might not matchup up with some of the larger programs size wise, they’ve continued to build internally and create some depth within the roster. Thoney’s qualification in diving stood out in particular, as Sheridan had no divers at last year’s state meet.
“Just to get our diver, Alicia, qualified is awesome; that’s going to help a ton,” Moore said. “And even our girls who add to that depth had great races today. They were getting touch-outs on other kids. We just need to keep bringing them along and hopefully get a couple more qualified.”
The Lady Broncs, who have been in the thick of their schedule for the last couple weeks, will have a bit of a break from competition. Although coach Moore said the training won’t relax too much, Sheridan won’t be back in the pool for a meet until it heads to Gillette Oct. 7.
The team has just three meets left before the conference meet on Oct. 19-20. The state meet will begin Nov. 3 in Gillette.
“It’s not going to be a break for our girls,” Moore admitted. “We won’t have any competitions, but we’re going to just start hammering on them and really tear them down so we can have a good taper at the end.”