Panthers swim team prepares for season

Team hopes to build on last season’s improvements

Bailey Duran follows Elaina Cope as they work on their kick at the Montezuma-Cortez High School team practice. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Bailey Duran follows Elaina Cope as they work on their kick at the Montezuma-Cortez High School team practice.

Two years ago, the Montezuma-Cortez High School Panthers swim team finished last in the Southwest League. Last season, the team improved, finishing seventh out of 12 teams.

This season, the Panthers will look to a group of experienced swimmers to help the team continue its ascent up the league standings.

FREESTYLE SWIMMERS LOOK STRONG

Leading the way for the Panthers during the 2013-14 season will be junior Madison VanBibber, who, coming off two Top 8 individual finishes at last season’s League Championships, hopes to become the first M-CHS swimmer in over a decade to qualify for the state.

“(VanBibber) is an extremely talented swimmer,” said head coach Ian MacLaren. “I expect big things from her this season.”

Looking to compliment VanBibber’s sprinting talents will be distance swimmers Elana Cope (junior), Tifiny Mills (sophomore), Kayla Hageman (junior) and Bailey Duran (freshman).

“My goal is to break the high school record for the 500 freestyle,” said Duran.

“The freestyle events figure to be one of our team’s strong points,” added MacLaren.

BREASTSTROKE SWIMMERS HOPE TO CONTRIBUTE

Last season, Panthers’ swimmers struggled to score in breaststroke events, but this season, the team’s breaststroke swimmers appear much improved.

Talented freshman Bailey Duran figures to be a major contributor in breaststroke events, as does Haukeness.

“It’s looking really good,” said Haukeness of the upcoming season. “I think we’ve got a good chance of getting some people to state.”

TOP BUTTERFLY SWIMMERS RETURN

Hoping to improve in the butterfly events, senior Vicky Jimenez team with Cope to create what figures to be an effective butterfly duo.

“I would like to make state,” explained Cope. “I’ve been swimming since I was six.”

BACKSTROKE SWIMMERS LOOK TO STEP UP

Missing last season’s top backstroke swimmer, Sera King, the Panthers will rely on juniors Haley Nadone and Amanda Kill and senior Sage Kramer to score in backstroke events.

“Backstroke could be our team’s weak point this year,” said MacLaren. “We’re going to need people to step up.”

INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY SWIMMERS APPEAR SOLID

While multiple swimmers could contribute in the individual medley events, Duran, Mills and LaPaz figure to be the team’s biggest contributors.

“I like that you can switch strokes and it doesn’t wear you out as fast,” said Mills.

SEASON OUTLOOK UNCLEAR

Just how good the Panthers will be in the ever-competitive Southwest League remains unclear.

“I’m seeing some good things,” said MacLaren. “As a group, we need to become more dedicated to year-round training. I do think that this year’s team could be competitive though.”

Those interested in catching the Panthers in action are encouraged to attend the team’s season opening meet against Durango on Dec. 6.

Elana Cope works on her backstroke during a recent practice at the Cortez Recreation Center. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Elana Cope works on her backstroke during a recent practice at the Cortez Recreation Center.