Kelly Walsh's Audrey Mitchell crawls competes in the 200-yard freestyle at the Class 4A West Conference Championships last year at Kelly Walsh High School.

Twenty total gold medal winners, spread across both classifications, returned to the pool on Monday for the 2019 girls swimming season. All of them have eyes on a repeat this fall, setting high standards for themselves in the process.

All swimmers get 10 practices before the first meet. Then the season quickly comes and goes before this year’s state meet in Gillette on the first full weekend of November.

Many swimmers will seize the spotlight between now and then but there’s a select few that carry success from last year into this campaign.

Here’s just a few names to keep an eye on this season:

Class 4A

Gabriella Haigler, Natrona County: The standout Fillies diver broke her own school record in nearly every meet last season before winning a gold medal and setting a new state record with 411.25 points. She joined the swimming and diving team late in her freshman season and still finished fifth at state. Then came last year’s landmark year. It’ll be interesting to see what this season has in store for the junior.

Olivia McPherson, Laramie: One of the defending champions’ top returners, McPherson gets back to the pool for a senior season after setting a state record in the 100 freestyle. She also swam on two of Laramie’s gold-medal winning relay teams in last year’s state meet. That leaves the possibility for four more state titles before she graduates and swims for the University of South Carolina next year.

Berkely Christensen, Gillette: As a freshman she held off a talented group of swimmers to win both the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle at last year’s state meet. After spending an entire offseason with the Gillette Swim Club, she could even improve her standing and become a legend-in-the-making for the Camels as a sophomore.

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Abi Robinson-Kim, Rock Springs: She took home silver medals as a freshman at last year’s state meet and she’d be the top returning swimmer in both the 100 backstroke and 200 IM should she return to those events this season. Whatever event she competes in she’ll be a contender to win it.

Zoe Robison, Sheridan: The only returner off Sheridan’s lone gold-medal winning relay team, Robison has an opportunity to break through on her own this year. She did earn bronze in the 100 freestyle at last year’s meet but was limited to just those two despite her versatility.

Class 3A

Brynlee Busskohl, Lyman: Just a junior, Busskohl returns to the pool after breaking a 15-year-old state record in the 100 breaststroke twice during the state meet. She now holds the new record with a time of 1 minute, 7.36 seconds. Expect her to return as a standout in four events this year.

Olivia Fowler, Lander: One of Lander’s standout swimmers among a team of standouts, Fowler finished with four gold medals at last year’s meet (two individual and two relay). The rising senior could return to defend her titles in the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle. Or she could vary her events so the Tigers can optimize their points at the end of the season.

Josie Dike, Riverton: One of the state’s best returns for her senior season. She was one of two Wolverines to swim outside of the preliminaries at last year’s state meet and she goes for gold in the 200 freestyle, where she finished with silver by a slim margin last year.

Ashlon Koch, Lander: The next in Lander’s long line of prominent swimmers, Koch joined the Tigers last season and helped them win relay gold as a freshman. She also won individual silver in the 200 IM, proving that she can compete on her own as well as part of the relays. She could swim in any event this season.

Emi Wagner, Buffalo: Coming off a learning experience at the Speedo Championship Series in Washington, the Buffalo standout returns to defend her championship in the 50 freestyle. Expect her to also make a charge in the 100 freestyle.

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Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @BradyOltmans


High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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