Depth factors into every team championship.
It was a crucial part of Laramie’s fourth consecutive Wyoming Class 4A boys state swimming and diving title.
The Plainsmen won just two events at the meet, but claimed the crown with 270 team points at the Laramie High Natatorium. Kelly Walsh won five events and finished as runner-up with 249 team points.
“Depth is always important, but this year it took a total team effort,” said Tom Hudson, who was voted state coach of the year. “We had 16 kids qualify for the state meet, and 15 came back and scored points for us (Friday).”
Laramie junior Dylan Bressler won 1-meter diving with 515.35 points on 11 dives. It beat the 19-year-old state record by 23.95 points.
“Those last three dives were my money dives,” Bressler said. “Because the (degree of difficulty) on those dives is so high, I save them for the end.
“I thought winning a state title, and setting the state record were both within reach if I did those dives like I do them in practice.”
Bressler dove well all season, but his performances hit their peak over the final two weekends. He set a pool record with 523.50 points at the Western Conference meet Feb. 6.
“I have been around this sport my whole life and I have never seen a high school diver do what he’s done,” Hudson said. “He has a great relationship with his coach, Ben Herdt. Ben pushes him and expects him to be perfect in practice, and that repetition pays off. (Bressler) takes the advice and works really hard. They’re a great combination.”
Herdt was voted 4A’s assistant coach of the year.
Thunder Basin junior Isaiah Halliburton placed second in diving with 467.65 points, while Laramie sophomore Ronan Robinson took third with 437.40.
The Plainsmen’s only other event win came from junior Mace Spiker-Miller in the 100-yard butterfly. He had the second-fastest qualifying time despite struggling with an important component of the race during Thursday afternoon’s preliminary heats.
“He had some rough turns in the prelims, and I think that was in his head a little bit,” Hudson said. “We had a talk about it after the prelims, and again (Friday) morning. He needed to just swim his own race, and that’s what allowed him to pull away for a win in a very close race.”
Spiker-Miller didn’t want to make excuses for his struggles Thursday, but pointed to a new set of goggles as the cause of his turn issues. The goggles are shaped to reduce drag, but created a fish-eye effect that disrupted Spiker-Miller’s depth perception and forced him to adjust his stroke at the last second because he was closer to the wall than he thought.
Spiker-Miller gave the goggles a second-chance during warm-ups Friday, and decided to stick with them for the finals. It paid off, as he never trailed and touched the wall first in 52.43 seconds, which was a half-second ahead of Cheyenne South junior Jonathon Ikerd.
“Goggles create more drag than anything else you wear in the pool,” Spiker-Miller said. “I knew my races were going to be close, so I wanted as little drag as possible. If I couldn’t figure it out during warm-ups, I would have switched.
“I got comfortable with the goggles, figured out my strokes with them and won.”
Spiker-Miller also placed second in the 200 individual medley (2 minutes, 2.66 seconds).
The Plainsmen also got a runner-up finishes from junior Collin Fontana in the 500 freestyle (5:00.36) and the 200 free relay team of Spiker-Miller, sophomore Josh Liu, junior Thomas Smith and sophomore Garrett Rees (1:30.49).
Fontana also placed third in the 200 free (1:49.01), Rees touched third in the 50 free (22.35), freshman Noah Cochran took third in the 100 fly (53.04), and sophomore Loden Ewers placed third in the 500 free (5:01.12).
Liu also placed fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.74), Smith was sixth in the 50 free (23.06). The 200 medley relay team of Fontana, sophomore Dallin Taff, Cochran and Liu finished fourth (1:43.11). The 400 free relay quartet of Spiker-Miller, Cochran, Fontana and Rees also placed fourth (3:21.02).
“We needed everyone on this team to perform well to win this meet,” Spiker-Miller said. “We had people who placed higher than people might have expected, and they pushed other team’s swimmers down in the standings.
“They earned us valuable points, and they also took points away from other teams. There are so many people who contributed to this championship than I can name off the top of my head.”