NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Just one time each season, the North Platte swim and dive team competes at home. That one time for the 2019-20 team comes Thursday against McCook.
Senior swimmers Carter Lukas and Caleb Tegtmeier during a Bulldog practice. (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)
The Bulldogs usually compete far from North Platte, with their closest away meets being in McCook or Kearney, so the home meet may be the only time some Bulldog athletes can have friends and family see them compete.
"It's important to them," head coach Brian Jahnke said, "a lot of people can't travel to see us, so to be able to be here at home, it's pretty important to them."
So far this season, the team has had some success. The girls' 200 meter medley relay team, consisting of Dana Sorenson, Morgan Girard, Meleah Friedrich, and Molly Fitzpatrick, finished with a secondary State qualifying time, of 2:02.77 earlier this month. The time also set a school record. Also, senior diver Natalie Miller has already qualified for State for the second straight year, having scored 324.35 at the McCook meet last Saturday.
"I think it's nice to know I've already made it, and now I could just work harder to do better at state," Miller said, "we're constantly working on new dives, so it's kind of like a mental game honestly, just always pushing yourself harder and doing new things."
The boys' freestyle and medley relay teams are just a few seconds off of qualifying for State, and the swimmers believe they have the potential to get a qualifying time, and are working hard to get there.
"Once you get down to seconds, every little technique, every little tiny movement of your arm, when it comes to the water, is going to make a difference," said senior swimmer Caleb Tegtmeier.
For the athletes competing, it means a lot to them to be able to compete in front of a home crowd.
"It's honestly super exhilarating," Girard said. "I don't think swimming or diving is a really super recognized sport, so when people actually come to see you, it's kind of fun."
"It's like yeah our parents are going to be watching. They're going to be so proud of us because we're doing really well this year, we're going to do good," Tegtmeier said.
"It means a lot to us because we don't get to show everybody how hard we work, so the one chance we do get, we want as many people to come as we can. Just to show how hard we've been working this season, it means a lot to us when people come out to watch," said senior diver Emily Hendren.
The Bulldogs have a fun time with their home meet. Some athletes compete in events they do not at other meets, specifically the divers, who will compete in swimming events Thursday.
"It's kind of interesting, we're not the best swimmers. It's honestly fun, it's fun to see where we are with our swimming compared to the rest of them," Miller said.
The seniors also compete in a running race in the pool at the end of the meet. The swimmers dress in themed costumes for the relay, last year's theme was 'Hawaiian.'
Also for the seniors, this year's meet will be their last at home, and will be senior day for them.
"This is it. This is where we go out, so we're going to try to do our best to make it worth it," Tegtmeier said.
"It's just kind of a big moment. All year I haven't really felt like a senior, but it's kind of just hitting me now," said swimmer Carter Lukas.
The Bulldog meet starts at the North Platte Recreation Complex at 3:30 p.m. The divers will start, with swimming events to follow.