Gillette's high school boys swimming and diving team found itself in a shoot-out Friday morning for the Class 4A state championship title.
The Camels, who are contending for a repeat crown against teams from Cheyenne Central and Laramie, opened the finals Friday in their home pool with a win in the 200-yard medley relay.
Gillette's winning time of 1:36.57, missed an All-American consideration time by a mere hundredth of a second. But the Camels, who won the first event in the finals, hope it was enough momentum to finish on top overall.
Swimming on the relay were Collin Baldacci, Noah Beaver, Andrew Apodaca and Kory Knotterus.
David Bowersox then finished second in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:44.99, getting touched out over the final 25 yards.
That gave Gillette an early six-point lead in the finals over Cheyenne Central, who edged Laramie by a point.
In the 200 individual medley, Beaver, a freshman, finished third, trailing winner Clayten Larsen of Laramie by just two seconds.
"I tried my best," Beaver said. "Just trying to do what I can to help score points."
That was the outlook shared by many Camels.
"I'm doing whatever I can to help the team," said Bowersox, a junior. "It doesn't matter to me if I finish fifth, as long as that's what helps the team the most."
Kyle White of Cheyenne Central won the 50 freestyle title with an automatic All-American time of 20.44 for the first individual win in the finals for the Indians. Apodaca, a junior, finished third at 22.50.
With three swimmers in the championship finals in the 50 freestyle, however, that dramatically changed the meet. Cheyenne Central took the lead with 100 points, followed by Laramie in second with 79 and Gillette with 75.
The teams headed into diving at 11 a.m. Friday, with the Camels hoping they could make up those points in the relays.
Heading into the finals, it appeared Gillette, Cheyenne Central and Laramie were in a virtual tie.
Although Central had more swimmers reach the finals (25), it's relay teams lagged behind Gillette's in the prelims Thursday. With relays earning double the points of individual races, the Camels felt they could make up for the lower number of qualifiers in the finals.
"It wasn't a picture perfect day, I guess," coach Josh Bott said. "But we're happy with the way it went."
The first day of competition was dominated by individuals, mostly White and Baldacci.
White had an amazing prelim, posting two automatic All-American times and breaking a state and pool record. His time of 44.76 in the 100-yard freestyle eclipsed the time of 45.06 set by former Gillette high school standout Nick Dillinger last year.
The Cheyenne junior also posted a time of 20.54 in the 50 freestyle, to earn an automatic All-American honors.
Baldacci blitzed the field in the 100 backstroke and broke his own state record, turning in a time of 50.07, which was six-tenths of a second faster than the record he set a year ago.
In all, the Camels were solid. But something seemed to be missing.
"There were some ups and downs and there were some things that happened that we thought shouldn't have happened," Bott said. "It's the state meet and it doesn't always go perfect. We had more seventh-place finishes and 13th-place finishes than we wanted, but the guys that are in had really great swims. We're happy with the way they swam."
The top 12 times in each event advanced to Friday morning's finals.
Baldacci, Bowersox and Beaver each made the finals in their two individual events, while the Camels finished first in two of the relays in the prelims, setting the stage for a dramatic finish.