The Woodland Park High School girls’ swimming team competed in its history making inaugural meet Nov. 28 at the Salida Invitational.
Eight Panthers swam for coach Rusty Bernstein. The meet included Salida, Fountain Valley and Pagosa Springs.
“The kids had a good time,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein added that his group was a little overwhelmed early on.
“Even though we rehearsed everything in practice, some of the girls were a little nervous,” he said. “But after the first race, we settled in.”
Junior Audrey Kinsman had the best individual finish of any Panther, taking 7th in the 100 meter freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 28.24 seconds.
Junior Clara Thompson was 10th in the 100 breast (2:05.19).
The 200 free relay team finished 6th (3:05.59). That team was comprised of Kinsman, Thompson, junior Olivia Whelan and sophomore Danielle Moreno.
Woodland Park has 12 swimmers. The rest of the team includes senior Katelyn Zeller; juniors Bianca Bryant and Henriette Schriever; sophomores Katerina Clouthier, Brynn Bohatch, Abby Trickett and Rabekah Taylor; and freshman Esperanza Gipson.
There are no divers on the team.
“The girls will pretty much swim every event,” Bernstein said. “Today was a good experience for them. They got a feel of how some of these kids from other teams swim.”
The Panthers’ next meet is Saturday in Gunnison.
Their first home meet is Dec. 12 against Sierra in the Woodland Aquatic Center. The Panthers will also host meets Jan. 9 against St. Mary’s and Jan. 23 against Manitou Springs.
Bernstein is taking a conservative approach with his team to begin the season.
“I don’t know a lot about what the other schools have,” he said. “Right now our goal is not so much our competition, but getting the girls to improve. I’m not one of those coaches who focuses on winning and losing.
“Everything we’re doing during the season is training and preparing for the championships at the end.”
The championships include league meets, as well as the Class 3A state meet in February.
Swimmers can qualify for the state meet by recording pre-established qualifying times.
The state meet, as well as meets throughout the season, limit swimmers to a maximum of two individual events and two relays, or one individual event and three relays. There are 11 swimming events (eight individual and three relays).
“With 12 swimmers, we will probably be a little limited in what we can do,” Bernstein said. “Typically, you don’t swim your best event every meet. You mix things around. All the events leading up to the championship meet is rehearsal.”
The Panthers train at the Woodland Aquatic Center, a short jaunt from the high school. Bernstein is also the club coach for Peak Swim Team, which also trains at the Aquatic Center.
“I’m hoping we’ll have 35-40 kids on the high school team in a few years,” Bernstein said. “I would like to see our club team have 100 kids. We have 45 right now.
“Having the club team will be very helpful. Most of the top teams in the state are all club teams.”