Jim Vorhies is brushing up on his moonwalking moves, anticipating that the Moffat County High School boys swim team he coaches will perform so well this weekend that he'll feel like dancing.
The idea that Vorhies will become so excited he starts imitating the King of Pop has junior Nick Ruckman looking forward to the Class 4A state meet in Loveland even more.
"I'll try to swim faster just for (the moonwalk)," he said.
Ruckman, who goes to school in Meeker and commutes to Craig several times a week to practice, qualified in six events for the state meet: The 50-meter freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly, and all three relays (200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle).
"I knew coming into the year I could qualify in the fly and the 50 free -- the 100 free was a bonus," he said. "It has been a good year."
That good year is partly due to the fact that he's growing up.
As a freshman Ruckman was 5-foot-6-inches and 105 pounds. Two years later he stands 5'11" and weighs 150. "Height really helps you in swimming," he said. "I grew two inches since last season and I could tell this summer that I was getting better."
Ruckman didn't qualify for any individual events last year, but he came within one-tenth of a second from qualifying in the butterfly. Then in the second meet of summer club he swam a time that would have qualified him for state. A year later his continued improvement has him in position to place in the top eight at state.
"In my five years coaching I haven't had a swimmer place in the top eight," Vorhies said. "So it will be a big moment for this team if that happens. Nick or Chris (Compton) could be the individuals to do it."
Ruckman has the 10th fastest time in the state for the fly, while Compton is ranked 12th in the 100 backstroke and is seven-tenths of a second from the sixth-fastest swimmer.
The medley relay of Ruckman, Compton, Zach Vorhies and either Andy Key or Blake Worsley could also break into the top eight. The team is ranked ninth.
Coach Vorhies said he would make the decision Thursday on whether Key or Worsley would swim the freestyle leg of the medley.
"They're both swimming great," Vorhies said. "It's just a tough decision about who is faster right now."
At state, the top 16 times in the preliminaries of an event qualify for the finals. The top eight of those times compete in the finals and the next eight swim in the consolation finals.
The Bulldogs are ranked in the top 16 in all five events they are swimming in.
At the meet, an individual is limited to four events. Ruckman went for the team approach when deciding what events to race. "I'm not going to swim the freestyles as an individual," he said. "I'd rather help my team in the relays."
That attitude is something Vorhies said he has seen from his team all year. "These guys are always cheering each other on and supporting each other," he said. "It's a great group of guys."
The core group of the team is made up of five juniors, Ruckman, Key, from Rangley, Worsley, from Steamboat Springs and the two boys from Craig, Vorhies and Compton. It's not a group of strangers though. All five see each other on a regular basis in the summers.
"We've swam against each other for forever in summer club," Ruckman said. "It's nice to get to compete with them during the high school season."
Both freestyle relays will be Vorhies, Ruckman, Key and Worsley, with the possibility of Compton hopping in if need be. The only non-junior going to the meet for the Moffat County team is sophomore Robert McClellan, the alternate for all of the relays.
"Everybody keeps getting faster," coach Vorhies said. "I have no idea how we'll do as a team, but I'm sure it will be good."
Vorhies said that the guys are looking forward not only to the state meet, but to next year when they'll all be back. "I think Jim is the one who talks a lot about next year," Ruckman said. "He's pretty excited."
Maybe he'll been doing the moonwalk every meet next year.
But right now Friday and Saturday at Mountain View High School is the focus.
"For a little team from the mountains to come in and get five events in the finals would be a big thing for us," Vorhies said. "It would be the most points we've ever scored."
And by the look of his attempt at the moonwalk Tuesday, it might be the hardest the boys have laughed in a while.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.