Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Lady Warriors four-peat as conference champions


October 24, 2017

COURTESY/ Hannah Stanek

The Lady Warriors celebrate their fourth-straight 3A East conference championship at Rawlins on Saturday.

RAWLINS - Make it four in a row for the Worland High School girls swimming team, Saturday in Rawlins, they won their fourth consecutive 3A East conference championship.

But it did not come easy.

The Lady Warriors had a fight on their hands the moment the meet started as the Buffalo Lady Bison came out swinging at the three-time champions. After a slow start, Worland was able to prevail 294 points to Buffalo's 286.

"It was an extremely close meet, and we weren't completely sure we won until they announced the final scores," said WHS girls swimming coach Mike Blissett. "Buffalo came out hard on Friday, you could tell they wanted to take the meet, and everyone from their athletes and their coaches to their fans knew they could do it. You could see their determination and excitement right away, and their performance caught our girls off guard, who came out a little flat to start the meet."

Added Blissett, "We had to regroup and energize our girls to swim even harder to prevent losing more ground to Buffalo. The rest of the meet on Friday went better for us. We ended up placing almost everyone on the team in the top 12 in their events after diving. It's a good thing we did because those girls who snuck into the top 12 were the difference for our team. They made up the eight points that we won by, and without them, we would have lost."

With the finals beginning Saturday, the Lady Warriors held a 12-point lead but when Blissett and his staff crunched the numbers the margin of error was thin if they were to four-peat as conference champions. That is when the 200-yard medley team (Ellyse Russell, Juli Warren, Kristen Collingwood, Macy Trombley) provided a much-needed spark for the team.

"Going into Saturday we knew that as things stood we were in the lead, but only by 12 points. We also knew that we would be losing up to 20 points at our lowest point and that we'd have to make up some ground in the other events to stand a chance at winning.

"There was a lot on the line heading into the first event, but the girls came out and obliterated the 200 medley relay conference meet record by four seconds, and that set the tone for our team. From that point on, the girls killed it," said Blissett.

Having already broken the school record earlier in the season, the 200 medley team not only broke their record but smashed the conference record as well. The conference record was set by Newcastle in 2002 and stood at 1:59.36, until the Lady Warriors broke it Saturday with their time of 1:55.50.

"They obliterated the conference meet record winning the race by over five seconds over second-place Douglas. Usually, when records fall it's only by a few tenths of a second, so for these girls to drop that record by almost four full seconds, it's really remarkable. We knew they would probably get the record going into the weekend because their season-best time was only six-tenths off the mark already, but we had no idea that they would take it down that low. Not only was it an amazing feat for the girls, making history in the process, it fired up our team and set our tone for the rest of the meet," said Blissett.

In total, the Lady Warriors ended up winning 7 of the 12 events, broke three conference records (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, 100 breaststroke) and three team records (200 medley relay, 200 IM and 100 breaststroke).

"The scary thing is, we accomplished all of that, and still almost lost the meet. That's how important everyone on the team is, and the girls all learned that important lesson this weekend," said Blissett.

The 200 freestyle relay team (Trombley, Collingwood, Warren, Russell) broke the conference record set by Buffalo in 1999 (1:44.45) with a time of 1:43.46.

"The same four girls did it again in the 200 free relay, winning the race by nearly eight seconds, and breaking the conference meet record by almost exactly one second. We figured that they had an outside chance to break that record, so we gave them the opportunity and they definitely rose to the occasion. Relay records tend to last for many years, and I think these records have a shot at lasting for a very long time," said Blissett.

The 400 freestyle relay team (Ella Stanek, Kylie Warren, Felicia Aguilar, Kaci Bentley) was the group to cement the Lady Warriors fourth consecutive conference championship.

"The 400 free relay placed fourth, but it was enough to cement our win. It was a very exciting and intense meet, and it was a huge relief to come out on top for our fourth straight conference title," said Blissett.

Junior Juli Warren had herself a meet as well, along with being a part of the record-breaking 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams, she also broke the conference and school records in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:08.47, as well as the school record (a record she set last season at state) in the 200 IM, 2:16.77. Warren also won all four of her events and for the cherry on top was named the athlete of the meet and athlete of the year in the 3A East conference.

"Juli Warren (1:08.47) annihilated the conference meet record in winning the 100 breast (the previous record was 1:10.38, set in 2016). Her time also reset her team record by almost four seconds (1:12.27). It has been incredible to watch her swim this season, and the fact that she was involved in breaking three conference records and winning all four of her events more than earned her the honor of being named athlete of the meet, as well as athlete of the year in our conference. She has worked extremely hard this season and I'm so happy for her and her successes. Something tells me she's not quite done yet, though," said Blissett.

Senior Kristen Collingwood also stood out with her performances and was a one of the team's spark plugs during the meet.

"Kristen Collingwood continued to energize our team with her incredible swim in the 200 free. She came in seeded fifth and dropped over four seconds from her Friday swim to take third overall. It was obvious that she was putting in a fantastic and inspiring effort through the entire race. For the 100 fly, Collingwood won by a convincing three-plus second margin [1:06.87], cutting nearly two seconds off her Friday time, which itself was a season-best time. Her ability this year has really come together and at just the right time, and we're really happy for her," said Blissett.

The Lady Warriors finished first and second in three events, the 200 IM, 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle.

Junior Ellyse Russell (25.41, 55.73) and Macy Trombley (26.33, 58.60) finished first and second, respectively, in the 50 and 100 freestyles; Warren and Felicia Aguilar (2:39.81) went first and second in the 200 IM.

"Those two races could have ended differently very easily. I think placing 1-2 in both of those events, plus getting the conference record in the medley was huge for us as a team for the rest of the meet," said Blissett about winning the 50 free and 200 IM.

"Those two make a pretty lethal combination of sprinters and it's a ton of fun to watch them compete," added Blissett about the Russell and Trombley.

Ella Stanek placed fifth in the butterfly with a time of 1:14.91, qualifying for state. In the 500 freestyle, Kaci Bentley was fifth with a time of 6:28.25 and Skyler Wrage was 11th with a time of 7:02.28. Freshman Kylie Warren finished third in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:19.06.

To win a fourth-straight conference championship it takes the whole team. The incredible performances by the Russells' and Juli Warrens' are huge but equally as important were the outings by the Bentleys', Staneks' and Alejandra Rices'. The team came together and everyone gave it their absolute best.

"In the 100 breast, Kylie impressed us all with her third-place finish. The exciting thing about that is she did it without really dropping time. I think that means we can hope for a nice time from her drop at state. Either way, it's not easy to place that high in that event as a freshman, and she did so with some authority.

"As impressive as all of the top-finishing swimmers did, it was really the efforts of the rest of the team that solidified the win. Without them, we wouldn't have had enough points to hold off Buffalo. Alejandra Rice in the 100 fly, Kaila Harris in the 200 IM, Annalise Newell in the 100 free, Skyler in the 500 free and diving, Kyra Klinghagen in the 100 breast and diving ... Those girls deserve lots of recognition as well! The conference meet is always a full-team effort, and we needed absolutely everyone on our team for this win," said Blissett.

The Lady Warriors have this week off and will use the time to make one last push in preparation for the 3A State meet Nov. 2-3 in Gillette. The competition will be tougher, but this team has shown they are capable of taking on any challenge.

"State will be very exciting, competition will be even tighter with 12 teams and I can't wait to see what these girls can accomplish," said Blissett.


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