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Everybody back into the pool, it’s time for the girls swimming season to get underway.

The biggest question going into this fall is if Laramie can take advantage of the split in Gillette once more and go back-to-back during a period of Camel dominance. Gillette had won four straight state championships, 11 since 2005 and 19 overall before the Plainsmen squeezed by Sheridan to win last season. Thunder Basin finished fourth and Gillette took sixth. Combined, their points would have won gold.

Helping lead Laramie’s hope for a repeat is Olivia McPherson, who won the 50 freestyle and took second in the 100 freestyle as a sophomore last year. She’s swam for Laramie Swim Club during the interim, gaining National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association All-America honors while also finishing in the top six in both freestyle events at the Speedo Champions Series.

But don’t count out Sheridan, which returns a lot of the same squad that finished hot on Laramie’s heels. Jadyn Mullikin, Taylor Baldaci, Zoe Robison and Piper Carroll highlight a competitive field for the Broncs. Even with the loss of their only individual medalists in the 2017 state meet, three of those four swam on the winning 200 medley relay team.

Then there’s the other contenders. Jenny Holwell won the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke for the Camels last year as a junior. She’ll likely be a cornerstone in Gillette’s bid to return to the top of the standings. Green River, Cheyenne Central and Thunder Basin all graduated their best swimmers or divers from last season. Their collective standing may falter early on in the season but aim to peak by the state swimming meet.

Class 3A may not offer as much of an open field but the swimmers there may be just as good as the ones in 4A.

Lander completed its quest for back-to-back gold in 2017 with a dominant performance. Despite losing substantial talent from last year, the Tigers still return standouts Olivia Fowler and McKenzie Lilygren. Lilygren was a member of the Tigers’ winning 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams. Fowler swam as the opening leg on that 400 free relay team in addition to earning gold in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke as a sophomore last season.

The Tigers certainly aren’t the only ones in the pool among 3A competition with returning standouts. Sublette County, Worland and Douglas stand among the schools with swimmers and divers from across the state that appear primed for another successful season.

Juli Warren returns for a senior season at Worland after one of the most successful state meets in recent memory. Warren won the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM as well as swimming the third leg on the Warriors’ winning 200 freestyle relay team. Ellyse Russell, another Worland senior this season, was a member of the 200 freestyle relay team and earned three different silver medals at the 2017 state meet.

Riverton’s Josie Dike will also be back this year having won the 100 freestyle last season. Sublette County junior Natalie Hunt held on to win the 100 butterfly last year. Sheridan Mathis, a senior from Douglas, could be an outside contender to compete for gold in 2018, having pressured Lander’s Fowler at last year’s state meet. Mathis is also the top returning swimmer in the 500 freestyle. The Bearcats also have the top returning diver in Moria McPherson.

Swimmers begin the season this week with meets in Gillette and Lander. It marks the ceremonial start to the 2018 season, which culminates in Laramie for all classes from Nov. 1-3.

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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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