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'We swam to be a team': Bozeman boys captured state title without individual wins

Bozeman boys swim 2024 state
Posted at 8:43 AM, Feb 16, 2024

BOZEMAN — Last week, the Bozeman High boys swim team captured its first state title since 2020. That season preceded the opening of Gallatin High in the fall, splitting the schools and the talent pool in town.

It had been a grind to get back to top-dog status, which makes this title even more enjoyable for the Hawks.

"There’s something really sweet about having to crawl your way up from the bottom and really prove to your community, to your teammates that you belong up there, on top still, even with smaller teams," Bozeman swimming head coach Siobhan Gilmartin said.

What’s unique about this championship is that the Hawks won the overall title despite not winning any individual events. It came down to a game of points, and working together as a team.

"We had people who were not expected to place that did," Bozeman senior Eli Stevens said. "We knocked kids off their spots to get into those heats. So, we swam to be competitive and we swam to be a team."

This state meet was a numbers game, and it came down to the final event: the 400-meter freestyle.

For Bozeman to get the win, it needed to place fourth or better; and Helena Capital couldn't place first.

"That was the last event, the last heat, the last race, and I was the last person to swim," Stevens reflected. "There’s nothing left after this. I have to leave it all in the pool."

"When we were waiting for our event, we were strategizing," Bozeman freshman and co-MVP Keen Odom said. "We were thinking, 'OK, we’re all going to go really fast here.' Just being on the edge of whether we were going to win or not, it was really exciting."

Sometimes swimming isn’t looked at as a team sport, but this championship spoke to how the Hawks all needed one another.

"It was a pretty crazy moment, I didn’t realize it at first until our coaches came over and told us that we had won, and then immediately we all just felt so full of joy," Bozeman freshman and co-MVP Max Aguirre said. "It was a really special moment.”

Last season Bozeman finished eighth at state, and this year the Hawks walked away winning it all. A large part in due to the freshman class that joined the team this season.

"Having these three freshman join the team and say, 'Hey, we’re really good. Let’s see how good we can get,'" Stevens said, thinking back to the beginning of the season. "That’s what made the difference. It was these boys coming on that made it possible."

The Hawks have a young core — with even more success in front of them.