Even though the Butte High swim team was shorthanded, the boys and girls teams both turned out solid performances as they wrapped up the regular season by hosting the Butte Invitational at the YMCA Center on Saturday afternoon.
Missoula Hellgate swept the team titles, while Butte High’s boys and girls squad both took fourth overall. The Bulldogs were without three starters, including ace freshman Catherine Russo, who coach Lynn Shrader said was out sick.
It was a race to see who would place second behind Hellgate all afternoon.
The Knights' boys and girls teams swept first in several races. In the 200-yard individual medley, junior Darragh Mahns came from the outside to win the event in a time of 2 minutes, 1.08 seconds. On the girls’ side, sophomore Katherine Berkoff won the 50 freestyle in 24.69 and the 100-yard backstroke in 57.87.
Another Missoula winner was senior Adam Zimmer from Big Sky, who is set to swim at Duke next year. Zimmer placed second in the 50 freestyle and outswam the competition by three seconds as he touched first in the 100 breaststroke.
Shrader said the meet was a nice wrap up to the season.
“I thought it went really well, especially since I had some key swimmers sick,” she said. “Everybody swam really well, especially since we are at one of the hardest parts of our training and we’re a little bit tired and worn out. I think they still rose up and swam great races.”
Butte High had a mixed bag of performances from its squad. Two swimmers who improved were junior Elsie Dickerson and sophomore Zach Johnson.
In the 200 freestyle, Dickerson dropped 15 seconds off her seed time and seventh overall in 2:02.50. During the 100 freestyle, she out-touched her competition by one one-hundredth of a second. With Russo out of the race, the event was wide open, and Dickerson was neck-and-neck with Hellgate’s Avery Vernon the entire swim.
She swam a 1:02.33 as Vernon went a 1:02.34.
“She has just been working hard to pick up her pace,” Shrader said. “We’re trying to decide what races she’ll swim at state. So were just trying to see where her times are. She swam really hard. She wants to get to a 1:01 in the 100. I’ve been happy that she’s put in a lot of time working hard.”
Johnson dropped time in two of his individual events. In the 200 individual medley, he dropped two seconds from his starting time. He also found success in the 100 freestyle.
Hellgate sophomore Dylan Faust had the event in the bag from the starting blocks, but Johnson surged past Sentinel’s Cody Carlson in the final 25 yards for second. Johnson swam a 53.28, one second slower than his seed time.
“With them being kind of pounded on doing our speed work and kicking, our arms and shoulders have been sore, but he was right at his best time,” Shrader said. “That’s a good thing going into state. He worked hard. This is the second time he’s swam his IM (individual medley) and he cut two seconds. I just thought he looked really good.”
Now, the Bulldogs shift their focus to the state meet. Shrader said she will take eight boys and six to eight girls to compete at state. She said she’s hoping to see both sides place at the meet.
“I feel pretty good,” she said. “I feel like we’re going to have all my girls’ relays place. I would love if a couple or some of them can be in the top six. That’s our goal. … Catherine has a good chance. She’ll be in the top six, we’re hoping for a state championship because anything can happen.
"For the boys I believe two of the relays can place. Hopefully they place and we can get Zach to place again. “
The state swim meet is at 11 a.m. on Feb. 10-11 in Great Falls.