LONGMONT — The Silver Creek boys swim team won a Class 4A state championship in 2008 and that team remains the top group in the school's history.
But even in comparison to the 2008 group, there's something special about this year's team.
For the first time in school history, via individual qualification or on a relay, every single member of the Raptors' 2016 senior class will compete at the state championships.
"As I recall, that's never happened," Raptors head coach Debbie Stewart said. "This year's group is such a close group and it just feels right that they're all going."
Coming off a stellar performance at the Mountain View Invitational, the Raptors have risen to third in the state's Class 4A rankings. In total, 16 Raptors swimmers or divers have amassed 44 qualifications, with several of them qualifying in as many as seven events. Seven seniors have combined for 27 of those qualifications.
With seven of the eight Raptors seniors qualified in individual events, senior Sam Willett is leading the pack. In the latest rankings, he owns two of the state's top times of 52.61 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke and 1:55.76 in the 200 individual medley. Senior Noah Jepson is fourth (47.38) in the 100 freestyle and sixth (1:58.15) in the 200 IM.
"We're a really close-knit group," senior captain Luke Shonka said. "We come to the pool to have a good time and race each other. We definitely push each other in practice and cheer for each other at meets so we have a really good dynamic that helps us exceed our expectations. My goal this year was just to try to make a state time and our team has been fortunate enough to go undefeated so far and I've already made two state times.
"It feels very good to get the times out of the way and now that the pressure to get to state is off, I can just focus on going as fast as I can. We have a little saying on the team and that's F.T.T. - either 'for the team' or 'for the trophy' - and we really want to get a trophy at state."
For the Raptors, who draw athletes from Erie, Lyons, Mead, Niwot and Silver Creek, getting a trophy requires a top-three finish. But they think they have a shot to finish first.
"The fact that we're all going off to college next year just makes us all want to contribute more," senior Blake Sterns said. "We went to win state this year and we know that we have a good chance so we all want to kick it up a notch and do whatever we can to leave a legacy."
In 2008, the Raptors won the state title in large part due to the individual dominance of All-American Nick Koerner, who went on to swim at Stanford. With a significant change in the rules for this season, the Raptors expect to be able to rely even more on their depth than they have in the past.
"Our 200 freestyle swimmers are strong, and we're deep in the 200 free," Stewart said. "My training philosophy is to train them for 200s. Now with this being the first time we can take more than four swimmers to state in an event, it's exciting because we can bring five or six and we don't have to move people around so much. Our guys will still have to fight to score in their events but we're excited about that."