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A happy ending for Tiger swimmers

by Chuck Smock

Brittany Reichardt and Charlene Rigdon both were looking for a little redemption at last weekend’s state swimming championships in Las Vegas.

Reichardt, a senior who missed her entire junior season with a serious illness, was trying to regain the form that carried her to state championships in the 100 breaststroke in each of her first two years as a varsity swimmer.

Rigdon, a junior, was trying to erase bad memories from the end of last season, when she was disqualified for a false start in the 50 freestyle at the zone meet and finished third at the state meet in the 100 backstroke.

And the state meet held added significance because it would serve as the last chapter in a swimming saga that started more than a decade ago. The two Tigers made sure the story had a happy ending – both girls won individual state titles and helped the DHS 200 medley relay team finish fourth and the 200 freestyle relay finish fifth.

Reichardt finished her high school swimming career like she started it -with a state championship in the 100 breaststroke. She also turned in a fourth-place finish in the 100 butterfly.

“It was really exciting,” Reichardt said. “I was glad to be back and swimming again. And I was glad to be swimming with my friends and was happy that our relays did so well. It just felt good to be back swimming at the level I was before.”

Rigdon established a new state record in winning the 100 backstroke (58.03 seconds) and also finished second in the 50 freestyle.

“I knew I was going to go fast, but I didn’t know I was going to break the record,” Rigdon said. “I was really looking forward to it. My head was in the right place.”

And both girls said sharing the experience with her long-time friend made the state meet even more special.

“It was really nice having her there, especially since it was her last year,” Rigdon said. “I was really excited our relays made it so we could swim together.

“When I was a little kid, I looked up to her. I always wanted her to think of me as being as good as her. Swimming wasn’t a problem for her. She never got nervous and I always admired that.

“I’ll always consider her my best friend.”

“I’m really glad we got to swim together my last year,” Reichardt said. “We pretty much motivated each other. I give her a lot of support and she gives me a lot of support.”

Reichardt has accepted a scholarship to swim for the University of Washington. A year ago, her swimming future was uncertain because of a virus that paralyzed her stomach, making it almost impossible to keep down food or liquids.

She first started feeling sick in March 1999. Her illness – gastroparesis – wasn’t diagnosed until that summer at Stanford Medical Center and she says she didn’t start feeling better until the following December.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be be able to get back,” Reichardt said. “I’m just starting to feel like I’m getting back to where I was.”

Reichardt has already qualified to swim the 100 breaststroke at the Olympic Trails in Indianapolis, Ind., in August. She’s currently training five days a week with Reno Aquatics and is hoping to secure a qualifying time in the 200 breaststroke.

Rigdon is training with a small group of swimmers under the direction of coach Skip Roggenbihl at Carson Valley Swim Center. Roggenbihl has coached Rigdon since she was 6.

“I’ve had other coaches, but he’s always been there with me,” she said. “I couldn’t do any of this without him. He’s the key to my success.”

Rigdon also said the support she has received from her mom, Linda, and her sister, Kim, have been instrumental in her development into one of the top swimmers in the state.

Rigdon has her sights set on the Junior Nationals meet this summer in Texas. She has received recruiting letters from several universities and plans to follow Reichardt into the college swimming world.