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Tigers swim in the fast lane

by Chuck Smock

Douglas swimming coach Don Luikart has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season.

Eleven Tigers return with varsity letters, five others have varsity experience and a talented group of newcomers will add depth for both the boys’ and girls’ teams at DHS this spring.

“Both teams look as strong as they ever have,” Luikart said.

Senior Charlene Rigdon, a three-time individual state champion and an Olympic Trials qualifier, is poised for another strong season at Douglas.

Rigdon established a new state record while winning the state title in the 100 backstroke (58.03 seconds) last spring. She also was second in the 50 freestyle and helped the DHS 200 medley relay team finish fourth and the 200 freestyle relay team finish fifth.

Rigdon has accepted a full-ride scholarship to swim for the University of Nevada, Reno next season.

Junior Konnie Seamons and sophomore Sarah Lillegard also return with state-meet experience. Seamons swam on both Douglas relay teams last spring. Lillegard swam the butterfly leg on the medley relay team as a freshman.

Senior Ellen Lillegard qualified for the Zone meet last season and will give the Tigers a very strong distance freestyle specialist this season.

Five Douglas boys return with Zone-meet experience.

Seniors Dan Canale, Peter Keegan and Daniel Riggs as well as sophomores Matt Austin and Scott Cronk will all be looking to make the step up to the state meet level.

Canale swims the freestyle and backstroke. Austin competes in the breaststroke, individual medley and freestyle. Riggs is a middle-distance freestyle specialist. Cronk and Keegan will swim all the strokes for the Tigers.

Seniors Amber Oglesby and Kristen Garzapena both return to the DHS swimming team after a two-year absence. Both girls qualified for the Zone swimming tournament as freshmen and both were four-year players on the Douglas tennis team. Garzapena recently completed her second season on the Tigers’ varsity basketball team.

Oglesby will swim all strokes, while Garzapena will concentrate on freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly.

Also returning for the Tigers are seniors Andy Johnson and Julie Jones, junior diver Katie Lake and sophomores Heather Rowe and Erin Wilson.

Luikart is expecting big things from freshmen Stephanie Denson (breaststroke, freestyle), Whitney Higgins (freestyle, butterfly), Janet Lillegard (freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly), Andy Sturgess (all strokes) and Jessica Ward (all strokes).

Josh Adkisson, Andrea Bryant, Nick Ezell, Julie Hoegland, Megan Mitchell, Sean Tinnell and Desirae Weyland will also swim for the Tigers this spring.

Kali Schmidt and Kristine Timmons join Katie Lake on the Douglas diving team.

“(The) returning seniors will provide depth and experience,” Luikart said. “Charlene will be very strong again this year in her events. Peter Keegan, Scott Cronk, Dan Canale, Konnie Seamons and Sarah Lillegard all had great seasons last year and are hungry to get to State this year.

“With the return of Amber Oglesby, Kristin Garzapena, Ellen Lillegard and Matt Austin, along with the addition of experienced competitive swimmers Janet Lillegard, Jessica Ward, Andy Sturgess, Whitney Higgins and Stephanie Denson, the team should have never-before-experienced depth and very strong relays.”

The Tigers will open the season with a dual meet against Galena today at 10:30 a.m. at the Alf Sorenson Pool in Sparks.

Douglas will play host to McQueen next Saturday at the Carson Valley Swim Center, and will host Carson the following Saturday.

“We are back in the league with the other big schools, which gives us great competition and allows us to ‘hide’ some of our strengths until Regionals,” Luikart said. “Up to this point, the team has been working very hard and is pulling together real well as a team. (The) team’s main focus is to have fun as a team and perform at the highest possible level.”