WHITE RIVER JUNCTION -- It all comes down to this.
After a summer of competing in dual meets and a district meet, the Bennington Marauders swim team travels to the Upper Valley Aquatic Center today for the two-day Vermont championships.
The Marauders will bring 23 swimmers to the meet, including 17 girls and six boys.
"This meet represents the best in the state," Marauders coach Nicole Goswami said. "It brings out greater competition. I feel that it brings the team together. I would say the kids are more nervous, I'm more nervous, but in general it is a higher level of competition than we have seen the rest of the season."
Goswami said that 22 teams will converge on the pool over the weekend. While the Marauders will see some familiar faces and teams from the dual meet season, the state championships will also be the first time the Marauders see teams from the northern part of the state.
If the Marauders want to bring some hardware back to town, Goswami said that her relay teams will have to step up and compete at their highest levels.
"Those are stacked with our strongest swimmers," Goswami said. "We expect them to do well placement-wise at the event."
For the girls, the relay teams are made up of the older girls on the team: Zoey Haar, Emily Barlow, Kate Ahearn and Phebe Hall.
For Haar, Barlow and Ahearn, the meet will be the last time the girls represent the Marauders.
"I've worked with them now for about nine years," Goswami said. "What I'm really hoping is that they meet their goals and their expectations, but at the end of the meet I want them to feel like they accomplished something and that they were part of a small family.
They will be missed greatly by all of us -- including coaches and parents. Aside from swimming, they all did well in academics and served as mentors for the team."
Outside of the relays, Haar will compete individually in the butterfly and freestyle events. Ahearn will swim in the individual medley races, while Barlow will compete in the longer distance swims and Hall will compete in the breaststroke and the backstroke.
Kate's sister, Bridgett Ahearn, will also battle for placement in the longer distance swims.
Other girls swimmers in contention for placing at states include Kendal Madison, Elyse Altland and Sienna Brosemer.
On the boys' side of the pool, the Marauders lack older veterans on the team, but Goswami said that she has a good young core of swimmers.
"This year we have had more boys on the team than we have in past years," she said. "It is a tough sport to attract the male swimmers to. It is more about keeping them engaged at an early age and help them achieve their goals to get through their teenage years."
Zach LaForest stands the best chance at placing, swimming in the 50 freestyle and the 50 butterfly.
In addition to LaForest, Camden Madison and Nathan Younce have chances to place in the freestyle and butterfly events.
The weekend-long event will see an equal number of races across the two days, as the swimmers work through more than 100 events throughout all the age classes. With Goswami, the team is coached by Jeanette Eurhans and Jenny Parizo, two people Goswami described as indispensable in helping the Marauders throughout the season.
The state championships will be the final meet of the summer season for the Marauders.