The Montezuma-Cortez swim team is hoping it can pick up where it left off after last year’s record-breaking season.
Last year, six Panthers swimmers competed in the state meet – the first time in 15 years the school had a state qualifier – and they also broke five school records.
The Panthers return two state qualifiers from last year in junior Samantha Bagge and senior Kayla Hageman.
Bagge qualified for state in four events and finished 33rd in Class 4A in the 200-yard freestyle, 33rd in the 200-yard freestyle relay and 43rd in the 50-yard freestyle.
Hageman joined Bagge, Madison Van Bibber and Bailey Duran on the 200-yard freestyle relay team.
After a recent coaching change, Gayle Earley takes over for Ian MacLaren as head coach of the M-CHS team. While it is her first year coaching the school squad, she is familiar with many of the swimmers and has coaching experience after over a decade on the coaching staff of the Leopard Sharks swim club.
The Panthers have 23 swimmers on the roster to start the season, and along with Bagge and Hageman, Earley views seniors Keyana Matteson and Tifiny Mills as other key contributors.
“Kiyana Matson has got a really strong stroke,” Earley said. “And Tifiny Mills is definitely coming along in confidence and stroke and technique.”
Earley also noted the strong swimming of freshmen Jenna Barner and Nanabah Sam, and said that she would like all of the swimmers to set goals and beat their own best times as the season progresses.
“My goal for the girls is that each one of them will beat their personal best times,” Earley said. “And I’d like to take as many of them to state as possible.”
The Panthers’ season opens with a home meet against Durango and Fruita Monument, starting at 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4.