BOZEMAN — The State AA swimming championships are less than three weeks away from kicking off in Great Falls, which will feature quite a few swimmers from Gallatin County. For two, in particular, this will be their very first time ever competing.
Julia Huffmaster is a freshman at Bozeman Gallatin High School and one of the top swimmers in the state.
"I’ve been trying to get the Bozeman records," Huffmaster said. "I think it’d be cool if the Gallatin records could be faster than the Bozeman records.”
From swimming the 50 free to the 500 free, Huffmaster holds a top-five time in seven different events across Montana, four of which she sits at the top in first.
While swimming competitively at a young age has helped her dive into the rankings as a freshman, it also helps to have one of her fiercest competitors racing in the lane next to her.
“Three years ago, Rylee moved from California actually, and we’ve been swimming together in the same group for probably three years every day and in morning practices," Huffmaster explained. "I think we’ve become really really good friends from that.”
Rylee McColley is also a freshman but swims for the Bozeman Hawks. She holds the fastest time in the state for the 100 breaststroke, and right behind her is Huffmaster.
"I think she’s really competitive, and then I just really want to win, so we just kind of push each other," McColley said. "Training with her, we can kind of push off each other's weaknesses and bring the other person up with us.“
“It definitely makes me a better swimmer and her too," Huffmaster added. "In our first meet, we were one one-hundredth second apart, and every time we race it’s always a good race.”
But as much as they love racing against each other, they enjoy going head to head with the boys.
“I like racing the boys, the older boys especially," Huffmaster chuckled. "That’s really fun.”
“I think it’s really nice and encouraging to swim with seniors because it’s really motivating to try to swim with them," McColley said. "As Julia said, beating the boys is like, ‘Yes! I beat them!'”
With state just around the corner, etching their names on the record boards is at the top of their list.
“I think that the 100 breaststroke record, we’ve been talking about it a lot at practice," McColley said. "There’s a bunch of girls on the team who swim breaststroke, so I think taking first, second, third and fourth would be so awesome for Bozeman and just getting that record.”