The Montezuma Cortez Lady Panthers swimming team took to the water Friday night, officially opening their season in a meet against Durango at the Cortez Recreation Center.
Durango captured the team victory, outdistancing Cortez, 576-204.
The Panthers opened the meet with a victory in the 200-yard medley relay, edging out the Demons by just over a second in a winning time of 2:39.15. The squad of Scott Earley, Alexx Earley, Jenna Barner and Julieanna Goad earned the Panthers’ lone relay win on the day.
Barner, the Panthers’ junior standout, picked up right where she left off, posting an impressive victory in the 100-freestyle en route to a state-qualifying time of 59.07.
Meanwhile, Durango senior captains Jocelyn Earl and Mira Joyner likewise earned qualifying times while capturing double wins on the afternoon. Earl won the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke, and Joyner took the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. Gracie Weaver added a win in the 50 yard freestyle.
Cortez head coach Gayle Earley is excited for the campaign to get underway. “We have a bunch of new swimmers this year, but right now these meets are good for getting experience.”
Under the leadership of Barner and classmate Nanabah Sam, Earley hopes that the youths will continue to develop and the Panthers can have several qualifiers for the state championships. As for Barner’s success, Earley knows that the young swimmers will look to her as the driving force for the team, both in and out of the pool.
“She has natural leadership,” said Earley, “and we know she’ll make the whole team better.”
Durango head coach Tom Joyner lauded his team’s early season performance. “We have a strong group of new girls this year, and we’re excited how they’ve developed so far in the early season.”
Returning a strong core with state experience, Joyner recognizes that the early season meets help to get an understanding where they stand, adding, “We’re on track to be where we want to be.”
The Panthers and Demons will meet again on Saturday in Durango before the Panthers head to Grand Junction to see the rest of the Western Slope swimming programs next Friday at Colorado Mesa University.