Woodland Park Girls’ Aqua Program Wraps Up Successful Season

Star Swimmers Struggle Through Weather Cancellations

Trevor Phipps

Photos By Paul Magnuson

As the rather young Woodland Park High School girls’ swimming team ages, the program tends to get more and more successful.

Last year, the WP team had some members take a place on the championship podium statewide. And this year, many local swimmers have headed back to the state championship again.


Ever since the Woodland Aquatic Center opened in 2017, the facility allowed the Woodland Park High School to add swimming to the slew of official sports offered. Once the girls’ swimming team started, the team’s head coach, Rusty Bernstein, formed a club team to begin training swimmers before they make it to high school.

Now after a few years into the program, the club team has served as a good feeding system to prepare swimmers for success at the high school level. And then last year, the high school’s swimming program stepped it up a notch when it added boys’ swimming to the sports lineup. The boys’ team will celebrate its second season this spring.


According to Bernstein, the team ended their ’23-’24 season on a high note. Once again, some of the Lady Panther swimmers did well enough to qualify for the state championship.


As a whole, Bernstein was happy with how the Lady Panthers fared as a team against their opponents this season. “We are beating the teams we are supposed to beat and we are having close meets with the teams that are little bit better than us,” the swimming coach said.

The coach did say, though, that the team has had to work through adversity created by Mother Nature. In December, snowstorms forced three meets in a row to get cancelled.


The coach said that Hannah Winn has been one of the team’s top swimmers as she has been competing in the water for Woodland Park since her freshman year. Winn has qualified for the state every year of her high school career.


The coach said that she will compete at the state level once again this year. (At press time, the results were not yet available from the state tournament.) “She (Winn) is one of the top five swimmers in the state,” Bernstein said.


Bernstein also said that Kensley Pekron was another top swimmer on the team. Pekron also qualified to go to the state tourney, as well as a relay team.


Last year, two relay teams qualified for the state championship. But only one relay team ranked at the championship tournament.

Bernstein was also excited that the swimming team gained the addition of divers this season. Last year, he wanting to get students interested in competing in diving as well as swimming. The coach’s recruitment efforts were quite successful.


In fact, for the first season in this program, the team showcased a handful of divers. Bernstein said that he got one girl interested in diving, and she was able to get a few others to join her. The coach thought they might have up to six divers for their inaugural diving kick-off season.  But they only ended up with three diving competitors, as some interested girls were tied up with the cheerleading team.


Overall, the coach said that he was impressed by his team’s success. He said that being a good team is challenging for the swimmers because they play different teams than those that are in the 3A Tri-Peaks League in other sports.


Bernstein said he is also excited about the future of the team. “I also coach the club team and the program is getting bigger and bigger,” the coach said. “We started the season with 22 students and a couple of them dropped out for various reasons. In the past we have only had like 10 or 11 and last year we might have had 12. We have a lot of kids coming up through the club both boys and girls. So, we should be continuing to get even bigger.”


Bernstein said he is also looking forward to the second year the high school has featured a boys’ swimming team. The boys’ swimming season takes place in the spring, and their season starts towards the end of this month.