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State swimming in Great Falls begins with preliminary heats

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Posted at 4:59 PM, Feb 09, 2024

GREAT FALLS — State swimming is back in Great Falls for a fifth straight year with 452 athletes diving into the pool at Great Falls High School in search of state hardware.

Friday featured all preliminary races with swimmers hunting for low seed times ahead of Saturday’s championship heats. The top 12 finishers in each event qualify for the finals.

RESULTS: 2024 STATE SWIMMING - DAY 1

In Class AA, the Missoula Hellgate boys are the defending champions and return a strong quad. The Knights won six straight titles from 2014-19 but missed the top of the podium from 2020-22 until returning last year. Leo Westenfelder (200 freestyle) is the lone returning state champ for the Knights.

Hellgate will face stiff tests from 2023 runner-up Kalispell Glacier and Billings West, which holds the top times in three relays.

Great Falls High has won back-to-back Class AA girls titles, finishing ahead of crosstown rival Great Falls CMR in 2022 and 2023. The Bison lost some senior star power but will have a shot at a three-peat. They will have to contend with the Rustlers, Missoula Sentinel and Kalispell Glacier.

In Class A, the Billings Central boys and girls have each won four straight state titles and are heavy favorites to make it five in a row. The Ram boys bring back multi-event winners Daniel Apostol (200 IM, 100 freestyle) and Dylan Shelton (500 freestyle, 100 backstroke) while the girls are led by defending champs Kelly Earley (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly) and Myah Kunz (100 backstroke).

MTN Sports will have complete coverage of the state swimming finals on Saturday, including photos and results.