FORT COLLINS — There was no way Boulder's Josie Valette was going to let what happened last year at Day 1 of the Class 5A state swim meet happen again.
The most stressful part of the meet was made that much tougher when she was forced to have a swim-off just to earn a spot in the 100-yard finals. She ended up losing that dual and it left a sour taste in her mouth.
With a renewed focus after a tumultuous calendar year — that included a bout of mono — the Panthers senior left nothing to chance on the Friday at the Edora Pool Ice Center.
The University of Denver-bound Valette qualified fifth in the 50 free and third in the 100 butterfly.
"I was just looking to redeem myself and put my best effort out there," said Valette, whose leadoff swim in the 400 free relay helped Boulder shave eight seconds off its qualifying time. "(Saturday) is just about having fun and I'm excited to definitely be back on the podium."
It was an effort that first-year Boulder coach Jay Turner was more than pleased with and heaped a large helping of praise upon his senior leader.
"Having gone through everything that she has gone through, she has come back and is writing her own story of greatness," said Turner, who singled out Grant Holicky at Rally Sport with helping mold some of his swimmers this year too. "I think Josie will be, in the next four years, as great as she allows herself to be."
In the sixth and final heat of the 50, Valette finished third and will have a chance to move up against familiar foes on Saturday, including Rock Canyon's Wisconsin-bound senior Abigail Kochevar and Arapahoe top-seed Laurel Eiber.
On a day that was relatively slow for state meet standards, the one exception was the 100 fly. There were five All-American times, and Valette's 55.53 second swim in the final heat was one of them.
"All these girls are so fast, it's just amazing to have the chance to swim with them," said Valette, who was on the podium twice as a sophomore.
Joining Valette in the 50 free finals will be the Monarch duo of Courtney Roeber and Sidney Trimm, who qualified sixth and eighth respectively. Roeber, a senior put herself in good position in the 100 breaststroke and will be in the hunt against defending champion Bailey Kovac of Fossil Ridge.
For Fairview, the expected big guns showed up and performed well. Junior Brittney Beetcher qualified first in both the 200 freestyle (1:52.09) and the 500 free (4:58.06).
But it was the work of a talented group of freshman that had longtime coach Bob Smartt wondering how he might have been able to draw up his line-up a little bit differently to maximize the most points for his team that will be chasing Fossil Ridge on Saturday and in a tight race with Regis Jesuit for second.
"They are so new that we coaches haven't figured out the best way to utilize them yet," said Smartt, who had seven different ninth-graders earn Saturday swims — including converted ballet dancer turned sprinter Kaia Reznicek. "We made a couple of coaching errors today because they are so young.
"We won't make that same mistake next year."
Other big time performances by the Knights included Sandra Freeman (2nd in the 200 IM), Adee Weller (6th in the 200 free and 3rd in the 500) and freshman Erin Lang (6th in the 500).
The Knights qualified third in both the 200 medley and 200 free relays and sixth in the 400 free relay.
"We are young and we had some surprises today," Smartt continued.
It was a tough day for both of the Broomfield schools.
Legacy came in with high hopes and just missed making the final 16 in both the 200 medley and 400 free relays, finishing 17th in both. The lone individual to make it back was freshman Shannon Feran (16th in both the 50 free and 100 free).
It was the same for Broomfield senior Madelaine McLain, who finished 16th in the 500 free by a mere .06 seconds ahead of the first alternate.