HELENA — Whether you're an avid high school sports fan, a college swim coach or a sports reporter who's new town; there are some things which take some time to figure out and some things that becoming abundantly clear rather quickly.
Shortly after entering the results from a dual meet against Butte in early December 2019, I envisioned writing about how Helena High's Parker Keller would be the 2019-20 Independent Record All-Area Swimmer of the Year.
And to the surprise of no one, here we are.
While Keller's teammate, junior Robert Wagner, has already won the honor twice, Keller put an emphatic stamp on his senior season at Helena.
The Bengals standout won three state championships at AA meet in Great Falls back in February. Keller took home titles in the 200 IM, 100 breaststroke and as part of the 400 freestyle relay, all in school-record time.
"It's been just awesome to see how he has progressed," said Helena High assistant swim coach Kyle Kallin, who has worked closely with Keller for the last four years. "He and I set some pretty high goals his freshman year. We pretty much achieved all of them the last four years, which has been phenomenal. He's just a beat in the pool. He comes to practice and goes hard every single day, and does all the little things you need to do to compete at that next level."
During the past season, Keller logged the best times in the state in the 100 breast (56.87) and 200 IM (1:57.37). Both times were registered at the 2020 state meet.
His efforts lifted the Helena boys to a fourth-place finish in Great Falls. Keller wrapped up his career with 10 top-six state-meet medals, including four titles (three individual, one relay).
During the next chapter of Keller's swimming career, he will be leaving Big Sky Country for the Big East Conference as he will join the Providence College Friars in Rhode Island.
Swimming at the NCAA Division I level will be a dream come true.
“For a long time becoming a Division I swimmer has been the goal,” Keller said during a November 2019 interview with the IR. “And I am just really excited about this opportunity. It’s a great school and it’s got a great history of success in its sports programs.”
This past swimming season was also highlighted by Wagner. He won a pair of state championships (500 freestyle, part of 400 free relay school record) and garnered one runner-up at AA meet in the 100 backstroke. To date he owns 10 career top-six state medals, including five titles (four individual, one relay), in addition to being the two-time IR All-Area Swimmer of the Year.
Helena High senior Christion Goetsch secured two state championships (100 butterfly, 400 free relay), both in school record time, and captured one runner-up. He finishes with nine career top-six state medals, including two titles (one individual, one relay).
Capital's Maija Geier earned three state medals (one individual, two relays). She set a school record in 50 free and finishes with seven top-six state medals (three individual, four relays).
The entire all-area team is listed below.
Parker Keller, Helena, senior
200 IM state champion, school record 1:57.37 (2014 record, Peter Kotson, 1:59.07); 100 breaststroke state champion, school record 56.87 (2019 record, Parker Keller, 58.60); 400 freestyle relay state champions (with Robert Wagner, Christion Goetsch, Jacob Demmons), 3:17.68; 2007 record, 3:20.03; 10 career top-six state meet medals, four state titles (three individual, one relay).
Robert Wagner, Helena, junior
500 freestyle state champion, 4:49.79; 100 backstroke, state runner-up, 54.58; 400 freestyle relay state champions (with Keller, Goetsch, Demmons), school record 3:17.68; 10 career top-six state medals, five state titles (four individual, one relay).
Christion Goetsch, Helena, senior
100 butterfly state champion, 52.40, school record (2020 record, Robert Wagner, 52.52); 200 freestyle state runner-up, 1:47.68; 400 freestyle state champions (with Keller, Wagner, Demmons); nine career top-six state medals, two state titles (one individual, one relay).
Maija Geier, Capital, senior
50 freestyle, sixth at state, school record 25.48 (2012 record, Makayla Crist, 25.60); fifth-place 200 freestyle (with Kate Sheafor, Ella Shropshire, Leah Baranek), 1:45.03; fifth-place 400 freestyle relay (with Sheafor, Shropshire, Baranek), 3:54.71; seven career top-six state medals (two individual, five relays).
Quade Oser, Helena, junior
100 breaststroke, state runner-up, 1:01.56; third-place 200 medley relay (with Jacob Demmons, Ben Vince, Wetherell), 1:44.23.
Joe Wadhams, Capital, senior
100 freestyle, fifth at state, 51.64; sixth-place 200 freestyle relay (with Carlin Onstad, Nick Bubb, Joseph Edwards), 1:37.44.
Taryn Oser, Helena, freshman
100 breaststroke, fourth at state, 1:11.42; 200 IM, sixth at State, 2:24.39.
— IR reporter and columnist Curt Synness contributed to this article
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