HELENA — Helena Capital High swimmer Zach Wadhams is aiming at his another trip to the Montana High School Association state swim meet.
Wadhams became a state qualifier in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events last season and set his individual goals high entering the 2018-2019 season.
"Last year I placed in the 15-to-20 range, but this year I would like to place higher and maybe even get to the finals," Wadhams said. "As a team, I know Capital is going to be very strong."
For Wadhams, experiencing the state tournament meet was admittedly unlike any other event he competed with in his career.
"Being at the state swimming meet was an exciting experience for me," Wadhams said. "At state, every class is there from Class A to AA, and even some B and C schools are competing. It's a huge event. There are an entire field house and gym filled up with people. It's exciting because there are so many people from different parts of the state that come together."
This year, Capital's roster boasts 40 swimmers, and Wadhams said a strong incoming freshman class would boost the boys team's chances of standing on the podium at the end of the season.
Since last season, the Bruins swim team has nearly doubled in size. Generally, in swimming, it is a game of numbers.
"Our swim team has nearly doubled in size since last year, and that allows us to be at more events," Wadhams said. "We might be able to pick up a couple of wins this year, and we are a fast enough team to do it."
Wadhams credits the team chemistry that developed between not just his Capital team, but also the Helena program. The two programs typically are fiercely competitive rivals in each sport.
"Our swim program is exciting," Wadhams said. "Both Helena High and Capital teams practice together. We come together as a team, and stay together as a close-knit group of people."
The Capital boys team is set to return Connor Bemis, who last year qualified for the 50 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke.
Joe Wadhams, Zach's brother, swam the freestyle event last year. Alex Barker qualified for the 100 breaststroke, and Jesse Mace competed in the 50, 100, and 150 freestyle.
"I think it is essential that these kids consider themselves one team," Bruins coach Julie Shannon said. "We are one swim family because we practice and travel together, and that is very important."
The primary goal for Shannon's Bruins team is to continue to encourage participation and competition.
"My goal is ultimately just to get everyone out there giving it their best effort and enjoying the season," Shannon said.
The girls will return their senior captain Cassie Williams, who was a state qualifier in the 50 freestyle last year.
Shannon will play a waiting game to see what events her team qualifies in.
"We will wait and see where the team falls out this season," Shannon said. "As the dynamics of the team changes, we are looking to see where other athletes fall and may assign Williams an event based on that."
The Bruins will also return Maija Geier, who holds a Capital school record in the 100 backstroke from last season. They are looking for more record-setting performances from Geier this season.
Another Bruin swimmer who should make an impact is Leah Baranek, who is active in the freestyle and breaststroke. Kate Sheafor will also be among several state qualifiers set to return.
"Sheafor is another kid that is fantastically fast," Shannon said. "When we have any weakness, she can fill in in about any slot even though she is primarily a freestyle swimmer."
Shannon would like to get some more state placers this year for bothswim programs, but ultimately her goal is for her team to have fun and continue to develop their craft.
"We want our swimmers to just enjoy the season," Shannon said.