Teammates cheer on Isabelle Mathis as she jumps off the blocks to begin the 100-meter backstroke during Saturday’s Douglas Invitational. Mathis took sixth in 1:33 to help the Lady Cats capture fourth place at the meet.

Members of the Douglas swim team sat in a circle and carefully stretched prior to beginning practice. They discussed ideas for a homecoming theme. They shared their thoughts on the week’s upcoming festivities.

The Lady Cats were just two days from hosting the Douglas Invitational, a meet that featured Natrona, Newcastle, Buffalo, Rawlins and Worland. It was the first of four meets Douglas will host this season, and the biggest.

And it was a test, well, more like a pre-test of sorts for the final exam Nov. 1-3 in Laramie.

Faith Hayes added to her state-qualifying time in the 100-meter freestyle by notching qualifying times in the 200-meter and 500-meter freestyles. She has now qualified for three individual events along with three team relays.

“I felt like we all did really well,” Hayes said. “This meet really prepared us for the last couple of meets before state.”

Hayes took second in the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 2:32, just behind teammate Sheridan Mathis, who took first in 2:31. Both swimmers have now qualified for state in the 100, 200 and 500-meter freestyles.

In the 400-meter freestyle, which is considered the 500-meter at the Douglas pool because of its longer length, Hayes took seventh in 5:33, six seconds behind Mathis, who finished in third at 5:27.

Hayes qualified in three events last year. So having already done so this season, she’s hoping to continue adding to that list in the waning weeks before the big finale.

Shayla Moore also helped pace the girls with two top-five finishes. She took fourth in the 50-meter freestyle in 31.02, a time that earned her a spot at the state meet. She also took fourth in the 100-meter butterfly in 1:30. She’s now qualified for the 50, 100 and 500-meter freestyles.

“I really hope to add the 200 (meter) to that list before state,” she said.

Christina Haroldson, Isabelle Mathis and Lexis Temple also swam strong on Saturday, each earning a top-five finish. Haroldson took fifth in the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:39. Mathis took fifth in the 200-meter individual medley in 3:15. Temple finished fifth in the 100-meter backstroke in 1:32.

The girls finished with 370 total points, good enough for fourth. Buffalo, Worland and Natrona took first through third, respectively.

In the team relays, the Lady Cats took third in the 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter medley and the 400-meter freestyle. They’ve qualified for state in each relay.

As the girls finished stretching prior to Monday’s practice, coach Lindsay Falkenburg delivered a written message from head coach Tylor Weiss, Then, she delivered her own words in response to Saturday’s meet.

“We’re really happy with how all of you did on Saturday,” she said.

Later mentioning a conversation she had with diver Moira McPherson, Falkenburg shared encouraging words from their teammate.

“I’ve watched them and they’ve really come a long way since the beginning of the season,” Falkenburg paraphrased McPherson. “This team has a lot of amazing potential.”

That potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hayes, Moore or anyone else on the team.

But often times, negative thoughts will hinder some if they aren’t improving their times each week, the girls admitted. Hayes hopes that can change.

“I think a lot of us are still too negative sometimes,” she said. “We just have to try and be more positive as a team.”

The Lady Cats were also helped on Saturday by McPherson and Lauren Pooley, who took second and third, respectively, in 1-meter diving.

As they prepare for their second straight home meet on Friday, a dual meet with Cody, the Lady Cats have a message from their coach to help push them through the final half of the season.

“I believe in you . . .” Falkenburg said before practice Monday. “You need to believe in you.”

Friday’s dual meet with Cody begins at the Douglas Rec Center at 3 p.m.

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