If you’re going to have the best two days of diving in your high school career, the best place to do it is at the final state meet of your senior year. Leave it to Lauren Pooley to make that happen.
The diver – one of four seniors on the Douglas girls swim team — took second place at State with a final score of 314.05 points.
She told herself just to do her best while feeling like an underdog amidst the competition. Riding the confidence of her strong second place in the preliminaries, Pooley ended up taking the silver in the finals, which earned her All-State accolades as well.
“I’ve competed against some of these girls and their dives were just amazing. I really had to keep my head up and do my best,” she said. “Out of my four years, those two days were the best of my diving career.”
Six members of the Lady Cats team swam at the final meet and the preliminary meet held the previous day.
From day one, the end was always in sight. Every time the Douglas High School swimmers stepped into the pool they could see the other end. From the first meet in August, they knew when their year would end — Nov. 8 in Gillette for the 3A State Championship meet.
“I’d say the girls, their attitudes were really good, they were excited and pretty jazzed about the meet. They have been for a couple weeks and they were ready to go,” head coach Tylor Weiss said.
While Pooley’s five other teammates swam in Gillette, four qualified for individual events and another, Shauna Smith, swam on the 400 freestyle relay team. The first finals event of the day was the 200 medley relay. The Lady Cats team of Lexis Temple, Faith Hayes, Isabelle Mathis and Shayla Moore finished their laps in 2:20.50, good for ninth.
The finish was strong for Douglas, a sign of things to come as Weiss said he thought the girls all swam to the best of their abilities, with one exception. Hayes, a senior, battled an illness on Thursday before the preliminary round which damaged her chances to compete in all of her events.
Weiss added that with how well Hayes performed through her illness, he’s confident she would have had one of the best meets of her life. Only the top 12 swimmers from the preliminary round advanced to the finals in the individual events.
In the 200 freestyle, Moore was the only member of the team to swim in the finals. She took eighth place in 2:12.57 — less than half of one second ahead of the next finisher. Hayes recorded a 2:24.72 time during the preliminaries in the event.
None of the Lady Cats made it to the finals in the 200 IM with Mathis finishing her preliminary run in 2:42.26. Next came the 50 freestyle, an event devoid of Douglas swimmers. The final round for the 100 fly also had no Douglas swimmers after Mathis missed the cut during the prelims. Her time of 1:15.03 was seven seconds behind the last qualifier.
Next came the 100 freestyle with Moore participating in the finals. She took 10th in the race at 59:64. Moore was one of three swimmers to finish in the 59th second and she was 0.02 seconds ahead of Cody High School’s Tayleigh Hopkin.
Race eight of the season’s closing meet was the longest individual race, the 500 freestyle. Hayes qualified for the race earlier in the season, but received a DFS, or Declared False Start, because of the aforementioned illness.
With only four races left on the docket, every school had to focus in and try to earn as many points as they could. Out of the last four, two races were relay events. The ninth race was the 200 freestyle relay with a team of Pooley, Mathis, Smith and Moore representing Douglas. They completed the event in 1:58.31, three seconds quicker than their time in the prelims and good for ninth.
Temple made her way to Gillette on the strength of her 100 backstroke time. In the prelims though, Temple finished in 1:11.74 and 19th place. The day’s last race was also their final chance to pick up a few team points and end the year on a positive note.
The quartet of Smith, Temple, Pooley and Hayes took 10th with a finishing time of 4:26.49 in the 400 freestyle relay.
As a team, the Douglas Lady Cats earned 43 points, good for ninth out of 12 teams. Weiss was especially proud of the team for finishing in ninth while having fewer swimmers than almost all other schools in attendance.
“We had eight girls, we were probably either the smallest or tied for the smallest team in the state and every meet we went to we competed. Just cause we were small doesn’t mean we didn’t have the talent. We had a very talented roster,” he said.
Ends are nothing more than new beginnings. The high school swim careers of Hayes, Temple, Pooley and Moore are over. Smith is moving away from Wyoming, according to Weiss, and won’t be the with Lady Cats next year.
It’s the end of an era for the Douglas swimmers, but that just means it’s time for the next one. Mathis will be the lone senior with experience on next year’s team — one of three swimmers Weiss is expecting to return along with Torrie Hill and Ashtyn Kolkman.
But next year won’t be the focus for a while as the swimmers and coaches move on to their other sports, jobs and responsibilities. They all get to sit back and spend as much time as they want remembering this season in the pool.
“This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” Pooley said.