AIR FORCE ACADEMY — The theme of the weekend for the Silver Creek swimmers at the Class 4A state championships was 'For the team'.
On Saturday, in the final meet of the season that brings together the absolute best the state has to offer, that team very much included Longmont diver Cooper Welsh.
Yes, the diving programs in the St. Vrain Valley School District are combined as far as having the same coach, and yes, Welsh is proud to be a Skyline Falcon competing for the Longmont High swim team. But when the Raptors as a group, not just fellow divers Ben Willett and Ashton Hubert, were cheering loudly for the junior during diving finals at the Air Force Academy, it had to be acknowledged.
The St. Vrain divers represented well on an afternoon where the Raptors also had two inidividual swims from Christopher Wingfield and all three relays back to attain points. Welsh, who finished seventh last year, stayed in eighth as he was seeded after the semifinals and scored 424.75 points. Keeping in eighth was an accomplishment as he was among a tight group of four entering those final three dives in front of a large Academy crowd.
"It was super awesome to have the Silver Creek team cheer for me because I didn't have any others from my team make it back unfortunately, but it's awesome to have supporters that aren't even on my team," Welsh said after receiving his medal in the competition. "My finals I felt really good about, and it was the beginning of the meet that seemed a little more rough but I found some energy at the end and it made it a lot more fun. I set my sights on getting my finals dives as best as I could."
For Willett and Hubert, there was also sweet satisfaction with gaining a finals bid as juniors and moving up from there. With both having barely missed out on finals as sophomores, being among the top 16 to compete in the finals was the goal. The rest was basically gravy, as they say.
Willett had a fantastic ninth dive that propelled him to a score of 409.90 and an 11th place finish (he was seeded 14th going to finals), while Hubert set himself up for a top-12 finish and scored 408.60.
"It seemed a lot easier having Ashton and Cooper there in the finals, you know, having close teammates allows you to really have a good time and relax a lot more," Willett said, he and Hubert going back to back in the finals dive order. "It was fun being able to talk with Ashton on the boards. It was cool to be able to say good luck to him right as he was getting on and him being able to do the same thing for me when he was getting out of the pool. Really nice to have a close teammate right there."
Unique in Willett's case is the fact he swam a leg of the Raptors' 200 medley relay team that placed 13th — another gain from their 15 seed after preliminaries. Willett, who was one of many teammates with the "FTT" written on his chest, led the foursome of himself, Andrew Wu, Carson Simon and Matthew Winn to a time of 1:45.23.
Their best races in relays were ahead of them after that, helping to an 11th place team finish for the meet with 87 points. The 200 free relay of Winn, Roland Bailey, Kendrick Choong and Wingfield went 1:31.39 for seventh place and the 400 free relay team of Wingfield, Damon Patrick, Dakota Casey and Bailey beat their preliminary time (3:24.73) while getting a chance to race the championship final by way of Evergreen's pre-race disqualification.
The finale was quite special to Wingfield, yet another junior, and to head coach Debbie Stewart.
"We all know that when we're in the pool, your teammates are going to be cheering you on," Wingfield said. "We switched up our (400 team) because we wanted one of our seniors (Patrick) to be able to swim in his last meet ever. I feel we finished how we wanted for the most part, and it was fun to improve our time."
Wingfield was the only local swimmer to come back for individual swims, placing eighth in the 100 free and ninth in the 50 free.
But Stewart has a good feeling the Raptors will be back for more next year.
"It was a great experience for the guys who swam the day as well as for the newer ones to be at their first state meet and get that excitement to want to come back even stronger," Stewart said. "We're young and you haven't seen the last of half these guys."
Class 4A Swimming and Diving Championships
At Air Force Academy
Team scores — Cheyenne Mountain 337, Valor Christian 239, Thompson Valley 219, Golden 177, Windsor 141, Coronado 107, George Washington 106, Discovery Canyon 105, Pine Creek 101, Montrose 101, Silver Creek 87, Pueblo County 72, Estes Park 70, Air Academy 63, Loveland 61, Mullen 60, Evergreen 43, D'Evelyn 36, Wheat Ridge 34, Glenwood Springs 34, Greeley Central 32, Green Mountain 24, Mountain View 22, Thomas Jefferson 21, Longmont 11.
200 medley relay — 1. Cheyenne Mountain (Birnbaum, Harder, Stieglitz, MacRenato), 1:35.95; 2. Golden, 1:36.68; 3. Valor Christian, 1:36.94; 4. Thompson Valley, 1:37.45; 5. Coronado, 1:38.69; 7. Pine creek, 1:41.32; 8. Montrose, 1:42.89; 13. Silver Creek (Willett, Wu, Simon, Winn), 1:45.23.
200 freestyle — 1. Liam Gately, Thompson Valley, 1:36.94*; 2. Kyle Leach, Cheyenne Mountain, 1:38.34; 3. Seth Hendrix, Evergreen, 1:39.84; 4. Griffin Ayotte, Air Academy, 1:41.57; 5. Chris Eddy, Thompson Valley, 1:43.38; 6. Ryan King, Montrose, 1:44.28; 7. Cory Leidich, Golden, 1:44.91; 8. Liam Dooley, Valor Christian, 1:44.93.
200 IM — 1. Ryan Peterson, Wheat Ridge, 1:53.01; 2. Dylan Nasser, Valor Christian, 1:53.13; 3. Blayze Jessen, Mullen, 1:53.87; 4. Cayden Christianson, Montrose, 1:58.90; 5. Sheridan Herder, Cheyenne Mountain, 1:59.80; 6. Gabe Grauvogel, Cheyenne Mountain, 1:59.94; 7. Ben Smith, Thompson Valley, 2:00.71; 8. Robert Clayton, Discovery Canyon, 2:00.90.
50 freestyle — 1. Daniel Carr, Cheyenne Mountain, 20.45; 2. Cole Sibelius, George Washington, 21.55; 3. Matthew Wyatt, Valor Christian, 21.84; 4. Erik Stolz, Thomas Jefferson, 21.93; 5. Tyler Cohan, Golden, 21.97; 6. Marley Kaiser, Coronado, 22.02; 7. Caleb Kim, Valor Christian, 22.26; 8. Max Moreland, Pueblo County, 22.35; 9. Chris Wingfield, Silver Creek, 22.08.
Diving — 1. Jacob Bielmeier, Estes Park, 521.90; 2. Oliver Mills, Evergreen, 489.05; 3. Casey Fellows, Valor Christian, 487.80; 4. Tristan Gess, Green Mountain, 486.95; 5. Ethan Igel, Estes Park, 466.45; 6. Brendan Byrnes, Discovery Canyon, 428.95; 7. Luke Soguero, Estes Park, 427.65; 8. Cooper Welsh, Longmont, 424.75; 11. Ben Willett, Silver Creek, 409.90; 12. Ashton Hubert, Silver Creek, 408.60.
100 butterfly — 1. Kyle Leach, Cheyenne Mountain, 49.23; 2. Daric Sundeen, Golden, 50.85; 3. Matthew Wyatt, Valor Christian, 52.43; 4. Colby Horton, Valor Christian, 52.43; 5. Treven Wertz, Pueblo County, 53.15; 6. Reade Warner, Golden, 53.26; 7. Drake Manuello, Greeley Central, 53.31; 8. Robert Clayton, Discovery Canyon, 53.47.
100 freestyle — 1. Liam Gately, Thompson Valley, 45.85*; 2. Nicholas Sherman, Pine Creek, 46.10; 3. Griffin Ayotte, Air Academy, 46.39; 4. Ryan Peterson, Wheat Ridge, 47.19; 5. Jerry Birnbaum, Cheyenne Mountain, 47.23; 6. Cole Sibelius, George Washington, 47.47; 6. Tyler Cohan, Golden, 47.47; 8. Christopher Wingfield, Silver Creek, 48.43.
500 freestyle — 1. Daniel Carr, Cheyenne Mountain, 4:33.99; 2. Ryan King, Montrose, 4:35.69; 3. Chris Eddy, Thompson Valley, 4:41.86; 4. Cory Leidich, Golden, 4:44.34; 5. Riley Miller, Windsor, 4:47.53; 6. Braden Whitmarsh, Discovery Canyon, 4:47.58; 7. Garrett Britt, Thompson Valley, 4:50.70; 8. Lukas Gately, Thompson Valley, 4:51.66.
200 free relay — 1. Cheyenne Mountain (Leach, MacRenato, Harder, Carr), 1:25.90; 2. Valor Christian, 1:27.79; 3. George Washington 1:29.43; 4. Pueblo County 1:30.60; 5. Golden, 1:30.63; 6. Coronado, 1:30.97; 7. Silver Creek (Winn, Roland Bailey, Kendrick Choong, Wingfield), 1:31.39; 8. Thompson Valley, 1:31.74.
100 backstroke — 1. Jerry Birnbaum, Cheyenne Mountain, 50.92; 2. Daric Sundeen, Golden, 51.01; 3. Nicholas Sherman, Pine Creek, 51.02; 4. Dylan Nasser, Valor Christian, 51.58; 5. Riley Miller, Windsor, 54.13; 6. Christian Moden, Cheyenne Mountain, 54.18; 7. Colby Horton, Windsor, 54.44; 8. Lenny Den, Valor Christian, 55.92.
100 breaststroke — 1. Drake Manuello, Greeley Central, 57.80; 2. Jack Moranetz, D'Evelyn, 57.89; 3. Sheridan Harder, Cheyenne Mountain, 58.61; 4. Blayze Jessen, Mullen, 59.68; 5. Gabe Grauvogel, Cheyenne Mountain, 59.95; 6. Daniel Turner, Loveland, 1:00.30; 7. Caleb Kim, Valor Christian, 1:00.94; 8. Marley Kaiser, Coronado, 1:01.64.
400 free relay — 1. Cheyenne Mountain (Leach, Birnbaum, Stieglitz, Carr), 3:02.67*; 2. Thompson Valley, 3:11.90; 3. Valor Christian, 3:12.95; 4. Pine Creek, 3:15.27; 5. George Washington, 3:16.79; 6. Windsor, 3:19.13; 7. Silver Creek (Wingfield, Damon Patrick, Dakota Casey, Bailey), 3:24.73; 8. Golden, DQ.
* — denotes Class 4A state record.