In her three short years as a Silver Creek swimmer, Raptors junior Sara Findley has seen the relay teams go from an afterthought at the Class 4A state meet to a major player.
As Findley sees it now, going into this weekend's state meet at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton, the Raptors are holding pretty good hands of cards.
Are the three relay teams capable of re-writing the school record books as they did last year? Only time(s) will tell. But all three teams have a good chance at making the championship finals for the first time this decade.
"We're pretty confident heading into this weekend," Findley said, her team coming off a relay sweep at last Saturday's Northern League/Tri-Valley League Championships. "If you look at the entirety of the season, we did have some ups and downs ... but I think right now we've all really caught the feel of our strokes.
"Our relay teams are really tight right now, and it's great that we get to keep them together for the most part even next year."
There are high rewards for good relays at the state, as points toward team meet scoring are doubled compared to individual events. Good relays can mean the difference between 10th place and, say, 7th or 8th.
For Silver Creek, there is a lot of experience coming back, even so much so as the 400 freestyle relay foursome will likely be the exact lineup that finished fifth last year — Meghan Magill, Olivia Bruce, Nicole Schlegel and Findley. The other two races will likely see three of the four spots remain the same as a year ago.
Brandi Vu is the common denominator in the medley and 200 free relays from last year, and Jenna Latsko will likely swim just the 200 free relay (she swam two last year). Laura Caro has been added to the 200 medley and 200 free teams. Findley will also be on the medley relay, and the lineups have brought a certain level of comfort as all the girls go into full taper this week.
"With the 400, it's just so reassuring to have the exact lineup, and I think we're going in the exact order which is a big help," Findley said of the team, seeded fifth at 3 minutes, 43.41 seconds. "Even in the 200 medley, with three of us back, we don't have to learn how to dive off anyone new. We know how each other swims."
As young as the girls still seem, SCHS head coach Debbie Stewart has seen a lot of growth. Even though not as many records have fallen this year yet, Stewart is expecting the relays to challenge last year's marks.
So is Latsko, also a contender in the 100 breaststroke.
"I was a bit nervous coming into the year, but our girls are getting wiser on how to prepare and keep going to the next level," Stewart said. "I think state is going to show even more drops for these girls.
"These ones that are coming back to state, there's another year under their belt. All of them are club swimmers except for Olivia Bruce ... and most of them made their state cuts way early. Their tapers are just starting."
Added Latsko: "I'm really confident in what we can bring to state this year. We have a really good chance at making finals and scoring points in all three, so that has us all excited. I think that everyone can go even faster at state, and we might be able to break some school records at state again.
In 4A, Silver Creek isn't the only school that can get excited about their relays. Centaurus should easily make it back to Saturday in all three relays, and Niwot is right on the cusp with seed times, too.
In 5A, Fairview's 200 medley relay team has state championship expectations and Monarch could score in all three, too. Broomfield, Boulder and Legacy each have at least one team on track to make it back.
If You Go
What: Class 4A and Class 5A State Swimming and Diving Championships
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Class 5A meet is at Edora Pool Ice Center in Fort Collins while the Class 4A meet is at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton. Friday preliminaries begin at 4 p.m., while finals on Saturday begin at 2 p.m.
Info: In Class 5A, Fairview, Monarch, Boulder, Broomfield and Legacy all have things to look forward to with a number of individuals who are projected to place high. The Knights, the largest team in the state, has a shot at their first team title in the sport since 2004 with the likes of Brittney Beetcher, Adee Weller and Sandra Freeman leading the way. Boulder's Josie Valette, MoHi's Sidney Trimm and Courtney Roeber and Broomfield's Madelaine McClain could star.
For Class 4A, Silver Creek brings a strong contingent led by Jenna Latsko, Brandi Vu and Nicole Schlegel in individual events. The Raptors' relays could help the team into a top-5 finish. Niwot diver Madison Barkow is expected to do well, and Hannah Svendsen leads Skyline. Centaurus is led by its relay teams, as well.
Northern League/Tri-Valley League championship recap
Silver Creek won its second straight Northern League title in girls swimming this past weekend, putting the Raptors in prime position for possibly its strongest showing at the Class 4A state meet under this current crop of athletes.
Niwot's Madison Barkow won the diving competition at the Greeley Rec Center, but otherwise Silver Creek representatives were constantly topping the podium. All three relay teams came in first place and three individuals (Brandi Vu, Nicole Schlegel and Laura Caro) also swam to the top in solo events. Centaurus finished a strong third, while Niwot placed fifth.