In an unfamiliar role, the Laramie Lady Plainsmen enter the new high school swimming and diving season favored to repeat as state champions.

Laramie won the schools’ first title since 2001 last year. With the return of junior All-American Olivia McPherson and three more All-State swimmers, the Lady Plainsmen have the target on their back.

Head coach Tom Hudson is in his 28th year at LHS, and he admitted it’s not something they are accustomed to. In the three previous state championships for the Laramie girls’ under Hudson, he said they weren’t the ones to beat.

“I will go out on a limb right now and say we are probably favored to win this one, so it’s really rare. We’ve never been in this situation with a girl’s squad before. I’m treating it as any other year where we’re still chasing because you can’t let up. You can’t rest on your laurels. You have to keep working hard, and this team’s willing to do that. They’re out of the gates pretty well with that.”

Laramie returns 18 total state qualifiers from last year’s title team. They set six school records and two state records on their way to a championship. McPherson will lead the way. The junior is a three-time individual state champion. Also returning are seniors Carter Burchi and Catie Weathermon, plus junior Sage Morton. All three were All-State in 2017 and part of victorious relays.

Burchi and fellow senior Kelcey Anderson feel like it’s going to be a great season. They joined KOWB’s David Settle for a preview of the 2018 season. Burchi thinks they can dominate, while Anderson likes the competition that is created by so many team members. There was also some fun topics, like a favorite road trip, movies and more from the talkative duo.

Hudson added, “There is a lot of optimism surrounding this team. It’s the biggest team that I’ve ever coached here at Laramie High School. We’ve got 54 girls out for the squad, so we’re really looking forward to things to come this season.”

Hudson does like the competition created by their numbers and feels LHS will have a well-balanced team.

“Our depth is definitely a strength, and our sprint freestyle is definitely a strength. We broke the state record in the 200 and 400 free relays. We return three of those four legs, so feeling pretty good about that.”

Areas to work on Hudson mentioned were the 200 medley relay and with a young diving team, but added there’s optimism around them.

As for who will challenge, Hudson looked to Sheridan reloading, an upcoming Green River squad, plus Cheyenne Central, Thunder Basin, and Campbell County.

The schedule has a total of seven home competition days for the Lady Plainsmen with most being duals. They open this weekend in Gillette with the Gillette Relays Friday and the Gillette Pentathlon Saturday. Other road meets include the Cheyenne Invite, Jackson Invite, Sheridan Invite, and the conference meet at Cheyenne South. Laramie will have the benefit of hosting the state championships, which are Nov. 1-3.