AIR FORCE ACADEMY — It seemed all too appropriate Saturday that Fairview's Michael Zarian walked out to the Dropkick Murphys playing over the speakers at the Air Force Academy prior to his 500 yard freestyle final.

After all, that pretty much summed up what the Knights' junior did to the competition at the Class 5A state swimming championships.

With a little help from Boulder senior Chris Nicholson, who won a title himself in the 200 freestyle while denying Arapahoe's Griffin Eiber first place, Zarian was the only 5A competitor this year to win double gold in individual events.

And, he did so with style winning the 200 individual medley and the 500 free while leading each race wire to wire.

Fairview’s Michael Zarian swims in the 200 yard IM during the 5A state meet Saturday at the Air Force Academy. Zarian won two state titles. Go to
Fairview's Michael Zarian swims in the 200 yard IM during the 5A state meet Saturday at the Air Force Academy. Zarian won two state titles. Go to for more photos. (Wendy Collison / Lamar Ledger)

"The energy was great on the team, and I was just happy to be here," said Zarian, who repeated as the 500 champ but won the IM after finishing second last year.

Zarian's 500 was nearly a lock, as he came into the finals seven seconds ahead of Boulder's Nathan Rock — the race's second seed. While Rock dropped time once again Saturday, Zarian's 4 minute, 34 second clip in the race proved untouchable.

The IM, on the other hand, featured five swimmers that had attained Consideration All-American times in preliminaries Friday. Still, Zarian was 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else at 1:48.98.

"I wasn't nervous but rather more excited for that IM, even though I really didn't know what kind of time I was going to get coming in," Zarian said. "Once prelims hit I had a pretty good idea of where I could be, so that's when the excitement kicked in."

"It was a fight for both and we knew all the other guys were going to be strong, but Michael knew exactly what he needed to do and wanted to do, and he pulled it off," Fairview coach Amy Webb said, her Knights placing fourth in the team race with 208 points. "We had some great, great performances."

As for wild and successful days, Nicholson's was also right up there. The senior for the Panthers walked the graduation line early Saturday morning at BHS, and he and his senior teammates Mick Bartholomew and PJ Stapleton flew down to get into race mode.

Nicholson was clearly primed for his 200 free (1:37.85), and he just missed getting a second one as Eiber touched him out in the 100 free by five-hundredths of a second (45.07 seconds to 45.12).

The Panthers put an exclamation point on the day with a championship swim in the 400 free relay, which partially made up for not being able to compete in the 200 medley relay finals. Boulder and Fairview went 1-2 in the meet finale, with BHS coming in at 3:06.21.

"The drive down from graduation a bit stressful just because we weren't sure if we would make warmups, but it all turned out to be just fine," Nicholson said. "I didn't get to throw my graduation cap or anything like that, but I have to say I'm a lot more excited with the meet because of the progress I made.

"I was nervous (for the 200) because I didn't know what Griffin could do, but I was happy with how it went."

That final race also helped Boulder pass Highlands Ranch and finish fifth overall in the team race.

"We had a different individual win and a different relay win, but it was equally awesome (to last year)," BHS head coach Emily Sampl added. "It was an awesome way out, especially the three seniors in their last high school meet."

The Fairview swim team cheers on their teammates during Saturday’s Class 5A state championships.
The Fairview swim team cheers on their teammates during Saturday's Class 5A state championships. (Wendy Collison / Lamar Ledger)

Other swimming highlights for Fairview included two top 8 placings from junior Justin Li (50 and 100 free) as well as two from Philip Manoff (100 fly, 100 back).

The Knights also received big points from junior Duncan Lester in diving, as he continued to roll up the standings in his third year. He finished fifth with 483.65 points.

"It's my best place so far. It wasn't my best meet, but I decided to compete a harder list than usual and I am glad I did that," Lester said.

For Boulder, sophomore Quinton Pierce made his leap into the top 8 in the 500 count, finishing third behind Zarian and Rock at 4:42.36. Bartholomew also added to his graduation day by placing fourth in both the IM and the backstroke.

Legacy coach Tony Helfrich was bestowed the coach of the year honors as his Lightning finished with 22 points.

Adam Dunivan: or

Class 5A State Championship

At Air Force Academy

Team scores — Fossil Ridge 331.50, Regis Jesuit 252, Cherry Creek 219, Fairview 208, Boulder 162.50, Highlands Ranch 160, Arapahoe 144, Heritage 92, Smoky Hill 82, Ponderosa 75, Lewis-Palmer 66, Greeley West 56, Rampart 48, Fort Collins 44, Chatfield 44, Pomona 42, Coronado 40, Grandview 35, Liberty 25, Bear Creek 25, George Washington 23, Legacy 22, Broomfield 22, Loveland 18, Grand Junction co-op 14, Lakewood 13, Cherokee Trail 13, Columbine 9, Denver East 6, Arvada West 4, Ralston Valley 4, Thornton 2, Hinkley 1.

200 medley relay — 1. Regis Jesuit, 1:31.88; 2. Fossil Ridge, 1:33.07; 3. Highlands Ranch, 1:33.19; 5. Fairview (Manoff, Morris, Guthrie, Martin), 1:35.93; 15. Legacy, 1:39.09.

200 freestyle — 1. Chris Nicholson, Boulder, 1:37.85; 2. Griffin Eiber, Arapahoe, 1:39.88; 3. Brody Lewis, Greeley West, 1:41.34; 4. Austin Crump, Broomfield, 1:41.69; 7. Nathan Rock, Boulder, 1:45.06; 15. Gregory Allan, Legacy, 1:46.70.

200 IM — 1. Michael Zarian, Fairview, 1:48.98; 2. Danny Kovac, Fossil Ridge, 1:50.56; 3. Elijah Warren, Regis Jesuit, 1:52.93; 4. Mick Bartholomew, Boulder, 1:53.57.

50 freestyle — 1. Max Grogan, Ponderosa, 21.04; 2. Anthony Laurita, Pomona, 21.36; 3. Kris Malinin, Fossil Ridge, 21.38; 5. Justin Li, Fairview, 21.43; 10. PJ Stapleton, Boulder, 21.64.

Diving — 1. Octavio Lucero, Smoky Hill, 604.65; 2. Caleb Ives, Arapahoe, 535.30; 3. Devin Bellamy, Smoky Hill, 532.05; 5. Duncan Lester, Fairview, 483.65.

100 butterfly — 1. Gabriele Sasia, Highlands Ranch, 49.32; 2. Ty coen, Regis Jesuit, 50.00; 3. Sam Ybarra, Fossil Ridge, 50.69; 5. Philip Manoff, Fairview, 51.22.

100 freestyle — 1. Griffin Eiber, Arapahoe, 45.07; 2. Chris Nicholson, Boulder, 45.12; 3. Hunter Fuqua, Cherry Creek, 46.58; 5. Justin Li, Fairview, 46.76; 10. Austin Crump, Broomfield, 47.02.

500 freestyle — 1. Michael Zarian, Fairview, 4:34.45; 2. Nathan Rock, Boulder, 4:40.27; 3. Quinton Pierce, Boulder, 4:42.36; 9. Garret Sooter, Fairview, 4:47.42; 12. Daniel Bradford, Legacy, 4:48.87.

200 free relay — 1. Fossil Ridge, 1:24.55; 2. Arapahoe, 1:24.93; 3. Regis Jesuit, 1:25.48; 5. Fairview, 1:25.88; 15. Boulder, 1:29.70.

100 backstroke — 1. Danny Kovac, Fossil Ridge, 49.69; 2. Gabriele Sasia, Highlands Ranch, 50.15; 3. Ty Coen, Regis Jesuit, 51.61; 4. Mick Barthlomew, Boulder, 52.03; 8. Philip Manoff, Fairview, 53.06; 10. Casey Hamilton, Legacy, 52.55.

100 breaststroke — 1. Elijah Warren, Regis Jesuit, 54.82; 2. Brody Lewis, Greeley West, 56.91; 3. Andrew Weiss, 57.13; 15. Benjamin Morris, Fairview, 59.81.

400 free relay — 1. Boulder, 3:06.21; 2. Fairview, 3:07.39; 3. Fossil Ridge, 3:07.84; 15. Legacy, 3:18.31.