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Butte Invitational (copy)

Butte High's Cynthia Trudgeon takes a breath during the final heat of the 100-yard butterfly on Saturday at the Butte Invitational.

BUTTE -- As Catherine Russo stood behind the starting blocks, the Butte High swimmer adjusted her goggles. She was flocked on either side by two Missoula Hellgate swimmers who were both older than her. But it didn’t matter, as the freshman swam the 50-yard freestyle and won the race in 23.72 seconds.

Russo was one of the Bulldogs' leaders Saturday afternoon during the Butte Invitational swim meet at the Butte YMCA.

The Hellgate girls team placed first with 565 points, Missoula Sentinel placed second with 284 points and Butte placed third with 271 points.

On the boys' side, Hellgate won with 459 points, Butte was second with 273 points and Helena High rounded out the top three with 241 points.

The Capital girls finished in sixth with 171 points, while the HHS girls were eighth with 75. For the boys, Capital finished in fifth with 214 points.

Although the Missoula squads were missing several swimmers who were competing at the Speedo Junior National Championships, Missoula coach Helen Houlihan said she saw great swims from all three schools.

“We really saw some kids rising to the top,” Houlihan said. “We have a lot of kids out for swimming. Between the three programs we have about 130 kids out. So it’s really exciting for us to see some of our newer swimmers step up and have some really great swims.”

Even though Russo is a freshman, she swims beyond her years. She has smashed Montana State Long Course records and represented the Treasure State in August at the USA Swimming Western Zone Age Group Championships meet in Utah. Saturday was Russo’s first high school meet because she spent last week competing at the AT & T Winter National Championships in Atlanta.

Russo said she likes to swim butterfly, but on Friday she swept the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke.

In the 50-yard freestyle, Russo had the fastest seed time at 24.11. On the first lap down the pool, the freshman pulled away from the pack in the final 10 yards into the wall. During the final lap back, Russo’s spinning hands propelled her to the wall.

She finished three seconds ahead of Hellgate’s Lydia Amon and said it was a personal best time.

“I felt very strong during the entire race,” Russo said. “It was a good feeling. Going into it I knew I was going to do well, but I didn’t know I was going to do that well. It was cool. My coach has been preparing me well for this race.”

The Bulldog freshman’s second win of the day came in the 100 backstroke. For the second time, Russo had the fastest time coming into the race with a 59.84. She smoked her competition once again by swimming a 1:00.67 and finished five seconds ahead of Capital’s Maija Geier.

Alex Ackerlund had the best day for Helena swimmers, winning the 100 free in 54.23, well ahead of Hellgate’s Mark Herzog (56.87). Ackerlund was also second in the 200 free, a fraction of a second behind Hellgate’s Tanner Baldry with a time of 1:56.86.

Helena High’s Alex Barker took third in the 100 free (57.24), while teammate Jacob Malaski was third in the 200 IM (2:14.84). The Bengal boys also had a pair of top relay finishes, taking second in the 200 medley (1:52.51) and 400 free (3:45.99).

Geier swam well for the Capital girls, taking second in the 100 backstroke (1:05.15) and third in the 100 free (1:00.70).

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Capital’s Cassie Williams was third in the 50 free (26.66).

The Capital girls finished in sixth with 171 points, while the HHS girls were eighth with 75. For the boys, Capital finished in fifth with 214 points.

Alex Ackerlund had the best day for Helena swimmers, winning the 100 free in 54.23, well ahead of Hellgate’s Mark Herzog (56.87). Ackerlund was also second in the 200 free, a fraction of a second behind Hellgate’s Tanner Baldry with a time of 1:56.86.

Helena High’s Alex Barker took third in the 100 free (57.24), while teammate Jacob Malaski was third in the 200 IM (2:14.84). The Bengal boys also had a pair of top relay finishes, taking second in the 200 medley (1:52.51) and 400 free (3:45.99).

Maija Geier swam well for the Capital girls, taking second in the 100 backstroke (1:05.15) and third in the 100 free (1:00.70).

Capital’s Cassie Williams was third in the 50 free (26.66).

 

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