by nathan oster
Connor Petty won two more state titles, the sixth and seventh of his prep career, to power the Worland Warriors to a third-place finish at the State 3A Swimming and Diving Championships last weekend in Gillette.
Petty, who grew up in Shell and is the son of Jeff and Jean Petty, has been attending Worland High School for the past two years, staying with the family of one of his Warrior teammates to cut down on the travel while he pursues his goals in the pool.
While he misses Greybull High School and his friends there, Petty said the arrangement has worked out well to this point — and that he remains hopeful of one day swimming in college.
Performances like the one he turned in at the state meet in Gillette will do nothing but help his cause, as for the second straight year, Connor was named the 3A swimmer of the meet and swimmer of the year.
Petty won three goals as a freshman — winning the 100 freestyle and swimming on two winning relay teams — and two more as a sophomore when he took top honors in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly.
Petty didn’t known until about two to three weeks before the state meet what he’d be swimming in Gillette. His coach, Kevin Heyer, decided to put him in the 200 individual medley and the 100 freestyle, as well as on two relays.
Petty delivered in a big way, winning both individual events.
His winning time in the 200 IM, a 1:59.16, was more than five seconds faster than his closest pursuer in 3A, and it would have been good for second place in 4A behind only a swimmer from Kelly Walsh High School, Jeremy Young, who swam a blazing 1:56.83.
Petty also cruised to victory in the 100 free, swimming a time, 47.71, that was more than a second faster than anyone else in 3A and better than only two freestylers from Cheyenne in the 4A competition.
Petty’s other contributions to the team’s cause including swimming a leg on the 200 freestyle relay team, which took second in 1:32.92, and on the 200 medley relay team, which took fifth in 1:47.52.
In an interview Tuesday, Petty deflected individual praise, saying the team’s third-place finish was the highlight of the meet, as far as he was concerned.
“We didn’t know if it was going to be possible, but we wanted to be in the top three — and we were,” he said.
Lander topped the 3A competition, scoring 274.5 points. Powell was next in line with 195.5, followed by Worland with 176.5.
Petty said his goal going into the season was simply to “help the team reach its goals” and to swim well in whichever events his coach asked him to swim.
He had set some goals as far as times in his two individual events — he fell short in the 200 IM, but exceeded his goal in the 100 free. In both events, he bettered his times. But in both events, he still ranks second all-time at WHS, behind only the times posted by his former coach, Guy Fulfer.
Petty is only a junior, so he’ll have one more season at WHS. He said his goals are going to be to set a state record or two, win all of his events at state, and help his team as much as possible. He doesn’t know where swimming will take him — just that he enjoys it.
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it,” he said. “But I have to work hard every day, too.”
Petty will swim in one more meet — the Senior Sectionals coming up shortly in Seattle —before shutting it down for the offseason. Come late spring/early summer, he will crank it up again, driven as always by a desire to make himself, and by extension his team, the best that they can be.