BROOMFIELD — Broomfield senior Jacob Hahn was less than pleased three seasons ago when he and his Eagles teammates were forced to move up to Class 5A.
"Freshman year was fun, you could make state and you had a lot of kids making state," he recalls. "Sophomore and junior years were changing years, our team was growing, getting bigger and the challenge was that we had lost a lot of talented seniors and we were having to do on a much more difficult platform."
Those state cuts that were a little bit easier to hit in 4A, weren't so much in 5A and the level of competition in the pool was ramped up.
Fast forward to his senior year and after experiencing the growing pains, Hahn and his Eagles have the pieces in place to make some serious noise on Friday and Saturday at the Class 5A state meet in Thornton at the Veteran Memorial Aquatic Center.
"We've added a bunch of new swimmers this year," Hahn continued, "And we have been able to compete, so that is really exciting."
Said Broomfield coach Emily Austin: "He told me mid-season how angry he was when we moved up to 5A and I was angry for two years about it. But he also told me he got it, that being in this place is really pushing us all to go faster, and faster than we ever thought we would've been able to."
And the Eagles have exceeded even what they might have thought was possible when this season began. They enter the state meet with the second fastest time in both the 200-yard medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay as well as the third quickest in the 200 freestyle relay.
The combination of an experienced senior/junior class — led by University of Pacific-bound Austin Crump, Hahn, Zach Hudson and Bo St. Onge among others — and an overwhelmingly fast freshmen core, notably Harrison Lierz, has Broomfield firmly entrenched in the 5A conversation.
"To see what these boys have done this year has shocked me all season long," Austin said. "And heading to state, this is a weird position to be in because its been a while since we've have anybody in any kind of mix.
"I'm trying to take it in stride and I am excited to see what everybody is going to do. I'm super anxious and I just can't wait for Friday to see what everybody is going to do."
Said Hahn, who will be on the 200 medley relay team that is closing in on an automatic All-American time: "It has definitely given us a drive and when you have been down for a few years and then when you are out there going fast, it is a lot more exciting. These accomplishments have felt a lot sweeter."
Keep an eye on Lierz over the next few days. At last weekend's Front Range League championships, he took home two titles. He won the 100 free and edged defending backstroke champion Danny Kovac of Fossil Ridge in that event. He will swim the 200 IM and 500 free at state. He is seeded No. 2 in the IM behind Fairview's state champion Michael Zarian and is first in the 500 free — where the top thee seed times are all BoCo swimmers, including Boulder's Nathan Rock and Legacy's Daniel Bradford.
"Having the team behind him, Harrison has really blossomed because of that," Austin said. "It's not to say that he hasn't had the support of teammates in the past, but club swimming is more of an individual sport and he has had to be his own cheerleader.
"So when he posts these times, and they seem to come from out of nowhere, it is because of the team."
The Harvard-bound Zarian, who won a 500 free title last year, will switch gears and try to win one in the 100 butterfly this weekend. The Knights' Duncan Lester is one of the favorites in diving, having soared to victory already this year at VMAC several times, including at the Mustang Invitational last month.
Silver Creek and Longmont will travel south to the United States Air Force Academy for the Class 4A state meet.
Both the Raptors and the Trojans will have some work to do to ensure Saturday finals swims, but it appears Debbie Stewart's Silver Creek team will at least be represented.
Junior Christopher Wingfield is seeded No. 11 in the 50 free and can make the podium if he improves to the top eight. Same with Samuel Beaudry and Hayden Dickenson in the 500; both will need to go fast in order to come back for the final day. Andrew Wu and Colby Wingfield should make a run in the breaststroke. If the Raptors 200 and 400 free relay teams hold their positions they should make the championship finals.