THORNTON — Perhaps channeling some inner-speed demon, Erie junior Payten Irwin threw on the jersey of the Kansas City Chiefs' nimble receiver, Tyreek Hill, as her day in the pool concluded on Saturday afternoon.
Jersey or not, the Class 3A Tigers seem to have found a game-changer of their own in their first season as a swim program.
Irwin won the 100-yard butterfly and took fifth in the 50 freestyle in what was a surefire performance from the junior at the Mountain Range Mustang Invitational at Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center.
"I'm definitely excited and very confident especially after swimming well at meets like this," she said.
Irwin began her day with a strong performance out of 503 swimmers in the 50 freestyle, finishing behind only four swimmers — three from 5A and one from 4A — in a time of 25.14 seconds. The junior then finished atop 76 other swimmers in the 100 butterfly with a time of 58.25.
Last year, Irwin finished fourth in the butterfly and ninth in the 50 freestyle at the 4A state meet while swimming for the team at Niwot. A student at Erie, the junior had no choice but to switch programs when the Tigers added a girls' swim team for the 2018-19 season.
Admittedly apprehensive about the idea when she first heard it, Irwin said she is enjoying her new role.
"I was very upset when I heard Erie was getting a team at first just because I built relationships at Niwot," Irwin said. "But then I found out Ms. (Kelly) Shipley was going to be our coach and so many of my friends would be swimming. It all just came together."
Shipley, who led Longmont to a state title in 3A last year, said the new program already has around 75 swimmers with about 60 of those completely new to the sport. State qualifiers Kailey Pickering and Meredith Olson join the coach at Erie after being important contributors for the Trojans last season.
"The fact that we have a lot of girls interested in the sport, it's very exciting," Shipley said. "Their work ethic is incredible, so they're just enjoying the sport and learning tons about it. They're doing some great stuff."
Other top performers from the area included Niwot freshman Mary Codevilla, who won the 200 IM (2:11.05) in what has been a remarkable start to her high school career, as well as Fairview's Karolina Bank and Emma Weber, who were respectively atop the 500 freestyle (5:17.76) and 100 breaststroke (1:05.78).
Among a reported 789 participants and 22 teams according to the host school, Regis Jesuit won six of the 12 events in taking the invite with 670.5 points and the Knights, the top-ranked team in 5A by PrepSwimCo.com, finished in second with 379.5. After that was Legacy (300), Silver Creek (199) and Horizon (192.5) rounding out the top five.
Niwot, meanwhile, showed merit after its jump from unranked to fifth in this week's 4A rankings and took sixth with 192 points. Broomfield was seventh (184), Monarch 11th (161.5), Erie 14th (104), Longmont 19th (45) and Skyline 22nd (12).
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew
Girls' Mustang Invitational
At Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center
Team scores — Regis Jesuit 670.5, Fairview 379.5, Legacy 300, Silver Creek 199, Horizon 192.5, Niwot 192, Broomfield 184, Mountain Range 178, Windsor 174, Pine Creek 163.
200 medley relay — 1. Regis Jesuit A (Parker Biley, Sophia Bradac, Hayley Cook Rachel Hubka), 1:50.14*; 2. Legacy (Sydney Bales, Maya Chao, Sophia Romero, Shannon Feran) 1:53.30*; 3. Regis Jesuit B (Ellie Lopez, Courtney Vale, Issie Capra, Ariana Mitsuoka), 1:53.45*.
200 freestyle — 1. Meriel Upton (Regis Jesuit), 1:57.52*; 2. Emiley Yie (Niwot), 1:57.97*; 3. Mairead Powers (Broomfield), 1:59.36*.
200 IM — 1. Mary Codevilla (Niwot), 2:11.05*; 2. Dom Cos (Pine Creek), 2:12.80*; 3. Charlotte Fie'eiki (Horizon), 2:13.00*.
50 freestyle — 1. Jada Surrell-Norwood (Regis Jesuit), 24.40*; 2. Katey Lewicki (Monarch), 24.88*; 3. Kaia Reznicek (Fairview) 24.98*.
Diving — 1. Ally Brown (Horizon), 486.10*; 2. Makenna Sanger (Windsor), 405.40*; 3. Angeline Settle (Monarch), 402.10*.
100 butterfly — 1. Payten Irwin (Erie), 58.25*; 2. Charlotte Fie'eiki (Horizon), 58.36*; 3. Sophia Romero (Legacy), 59.81*.
100 freestyle — 1. Jada Surrell-Norwood (Regis Jesuit), 52.94*; 2. Claire Brennan (Regis Jesuit), 54.28*; 3. Abbie Shaw (Niwot), 54.49*.
500 freestyle — 1. Karolina Bank (Fairview), 5:17.76*; 2. Kaylee Austin (Broomfield), 5:18.57*; 3. Shannon Feran (Legacy), 5:18.69*.
200 free relay — 1. Regis Jesuit A, 1:39.77; 2. Silver Creek, 1:42.39; 3. Regis Jesuit B, 1:42.59.
100 backstroke — 1. Kennedy Terry (Pine Creek), 58.51*; 2. Kandice Chandra (Legacy), 58.63*; 3. Parker Biley (Regis Jesuit), 59.09*.
100 breaststroke — 1. Emma Weber (Fairview) 1:05.78*; 2. Dom Cos (Pine Creek), 1:06.74*; 3. Delaney Engel (Windsor), 1:10.32*.
400 free relay — 1. Regis Jesuit A (Sophia Bradac, Meriel Upton, Parker Biley, Jada Surrell-Norwood), 3:36.80*; 2. Regis Jesuit B (Greta Leege, Grace Dale, Faith Marsicek, Claire Brennan), 3:42.19*; 3. Legacy (Makenna Lindeman, Kandice Chandra, Sydney Bales, Shannon Feran), 3:42.99*.
* — denotes state-qualifying mark