Campbell County High School swim coach Phil Rehard knew at the start of the season that he was going to need a couple of young swimmers to displace the water left placid by last year’s top seniors, Jenny Holwell and McKenna Hauber.
Holwell won two state titles and Hauber took one last year at the Class 4A state tournament, and this fall they moved on to college swimming programs.
Freshmen Ryann Drube and Skye Rehard (the coach’s daughter) have been the two swimmers the Camels needed to fill the Holwell-Hauber void.
“They’ve definitely done the job,” the coach said. “Skye and (Ryann) have definitely stepped into those two shoes and helped us so far where they needed to throughout the season.”
Drube has qualified for the state meet in five events and boasts a top 10 time in the 100 breaststroke, her best event.
Rehard is the only member of the team who has qualified for every event this season. Her best race has been the 200 individual medley, in which she ranks 10th in Class 4A with a top time of 2 minutes, 23.88 seconds.
“There is pressure there and there are expectations on me and Ryann and all the other girls too,” Skye Rehard said. “I know it will pay off and the outcome will be what we want.”
The ability of the two swimmers to come into high school and start competing and qualifying was never a question for Phil Rehard, however. The two have been swimming together, and have been coached by Phil in some capacity at the Gillette Swim Club for almost 10 years.
“They’ve both been club swimmers since they were 6 years old, so when you bring in club swimmers like that, they usually tend to qualify in most of the events,” he said. “Expecting and hoping are two different things in reality, but they’ve done the job.”
Being the swim coach’s daughter hasn’t hurt, either.
“I’ve been around the pool since I can remember,” Skye Rehard said. “It’s been a little different at high school. It’s been more serious and we’ve worked a lot harder.”
In July, before the high school swim season started, Skye Rehard, Drube, sophomore Berkeley Christensen and eighth-grader Zoe Gallion broke the Wyoming swim club record for girls ages 13-14 in the long course 200-freestyle.
Christensen, who took first place in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly at state last season as a freshman, said she wasn’t surprised that Skye Rehard and Drube came in and made an immediate impact.
“They’ve been swimming for so long, so they know what they have to do,” Christensen said.
Skye Rehard and her older sister Klaire, a senior who has qualified for state in four events this season, have three weeks left to swim with each other at the high school level.
Skye calls Klaire the “team mom.”
“She just makes sure everyone and everything is on time. Everything’s in order,” Skye said. “It is kind of hard knowing this is my last season, last swim meets with my sister just because I have been swimming with her my whole life.”
As the end of the season gets closer, Phil Rehard is figuring out what his lineup is going to look like for the state meet. A swimmer can only swim in two individual events and two relays, even if she qualifies for more, or all of them as Skye Rehard did.
The strategy of selecting the proper swimmers for each event is like a chess match, Phil Rehard said. He has to read the field of competitors and analyze the Camels’ abilities to finish as high as possible in each event to ensure the best possible finish for the team.
Swapping out one swimmer for another in a particular race can make a big difference when the Camels are trying to score team points to finish as high as they can in the standings.
“I know what he puts me in, that’s what he thinks is best for the team,” Christensen said. “So whatever I do, I’m OK with it.”
For Christensen, it almost doesn’t matter which events she swims. Christensen qualified for every event except for one, and she is ranked in the top five in all her events and the top two in five. She won last season in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly as a freshman.
“I’m guessing her goal is probably to never lose a race at a state meet, which would be eight state titles, and we haven’t had many of those,” Phil Rehard said. “Berkeley is a rare swimmer, but every year’s different and you’ve got to go win those two events.”
Another large element of the swim team strategy is the resting, muscle-rebuilding period of time that occurs in the final weeks of the season. It’s called “tapering,” and it happens in other sports like cross-country, where athletes grind their bodies down to a pulp all season just to experience that natural lift in ability when the taper comes around and they can get some rest and rebuild.
“Right now, they’re just completely torn down,” Phil Rehard said. “You just hope that during the taper that gives them more energy. They rest back up. They’re not as sore and they get out there and swim faster.”
“It’s always been part of the swim world,” he said. “That’s how the sport works.”
The girls swim for about three hours each day, with a morning session before school and afternoon session after. They even swim on Saturdays when they don’t have a meet. For two days out of the week, they hit the weight room as well.
But by the end of the taper period, the morning practices are cut and swimmers will only be in the pool for about 45 minutes each practice.
“My arms hurt and my legs hurt. Everything hurts, but I’m having fun, and I know it will all be worth it at state,” Drube said.
On Saturday, the Campbell County and Thunder Basin swim teams host the Gillette Invite, a swim meet larger than the state meet. It attracts about 20 high school swim programs from Class 4A and 3A each year, Phil Rehard said. It is a sort of pre-state meet, because every Class 4A team will attend.
“It’s an overall state meet, just to see where everybody’s at,” he said.
Heading into the final laps of the season, the Camels have seven swimmers qualified for state: Skye Rehard, Klaire Rehard, Drube, Christensen, sophomore Allison Granat, senior Grace Bydlon and senior diver (the only one on the team) Phaezia Harkins.
In the relays, the Camels have put together a top-three 200 medley relay of all underclassmen, Skye, Drube, Christensen and Allison Granat, and they have a top-four 400 freestyle relay.
Phil Rehard said that a couple of young swimmers could break the barrier to score a ticket to state with three more meets remaining before the Class 4A state swim meet at the Gillette Aquatic Center on Nov. 8-9.
As a team, Campbell County has gone 11-3 in dual meets this season. The team lost to Laramie once and Cheyenne Central twice. Last season, the Camels finished third as a team at the state meet.
“With those freshmen helping out, we’ve had a great season so far and hopefully we can finish up strong,” Phil Rehard said. “Our team’s done a great job, and looking to still add a couple more qualifiers.”