THORNTON — While the Colorado Coaches Invite at Thornton's Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center is often star-studded with returning state champions, the meet also gives younger swimmers a chance to put themselves on the map and start thinking about their place in the state ranks.

Consider Niwot's Payten Irwin and Longmont's Lucy Matheson two such girls. The two freshmen on Saturday were more than a blip on the radar among locals participating at the biggest early meet of the year.

After their individual swims were completed — Irwin in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly, Matheson in the 200 IM and 500 free — they shared common responses about performing on the big stage.

"This was my first high school meet I've swam, so I felt it went pretty good," said Irwin. "I just love racing, so the best competition I can get is always great. I just wanted to go out and do my best and try to get best times."

"It's really cool to get to swim against people that I've looked up to for so long," Matheson said. "I felt really good after my prelims, so it was really just about having fun with my races."

Both of them set themselves up for what could be a fantastic rest of the year as Niwot and Longmont look to improve as teams when it comes to the state meet.

Irwin was seeded 19th in the IM and moved up to 12th in the final with a time of 2 minutes, 11.56 seconds. Also seeded ninth in the championship heat of the 100 fly, she raced to a time of 58.22 seconds — good for fifth.


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Niwot also finished 12th in the 200 free relay with Irwin anchoring.

"I've been training pretty hard, so it hasn't been easy practices before today," Irwin said. "So for being tired swimming, not bad."

Matheson made the championship final of the 200 IM with the likes of Fossil Ridge's Bailey Kovac and Windsor's Morgan Friesen, and she finished fourth at 2:10.78. In the 500, she shared the pool with Fairview's Brittney Beetcher as one of just two freshmen in the championship heat, finishing sixth (5:10.58).

Nearly all of the finals and consolation swims on Saturday were state cuts, a true measure of the elite competition involved.

"I would love to break 5:10 by the end of the season, and I think that's possible if I keep working hard," Matheson said.

"It's a big meet, but she was just coming off of junior nationals so I knew she'd be ready," said Longmont coach Kelly Shipley. "She's seasoned, so talking to her about this meet was a little different than talking to the rest of my new swimmers. It's more about walking through those swims."

Beetcher came out and swam two fantastic heats of the 200 free and 500 free, winning both events as she starts to mentally prepare for defending those individual state titles.

But the evening did not go by without a surprise, as she was honored as the recipient of the Hoyt Brawner Award, given to a senior who has excelled in swimming, academics and community service.

She will be a catalyst for Fairview's attempt at defending their Class 5A state championship, but it will be again the depth of the Knights that help contend with Fossil Ridge. The SaberCats won two relays and four individual events at VMAC to take top honors for the meet, 52.5 points ahead of Fairview.

However, Fairview did split its massive team into two groups on Saturday and won the Oly Invite in Aurora. At VMAC, Mikayla Seigal, Mya Drost-Parra, Alex Schwier, Una Forsythe Riley Tapley and Isabel Rich had top-10 finishes in individual events.

"It's too early to tell, but I know Fossil's girls are amazing but we also have some amazing girls. Our sophomore class is great, and I think our relays are really coming along well," Beetcher said. "It's really fun to get a chance to feel out this new team, because we had a lot of seniors last year. Today was fun."

Silver Creek also stood out as a team on Saturday, finishing fourth among the 4A teams with two top-8 finishes from junior Brandi Vu (100 free, 100 breaststroke). The Raptors took ninth in the 200 medley relay and eighth in the 200 free relay.

Adam Dunivan: dunivana@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/AdamDunivan24

Colorado Coaches Invite

At VMAC

Team scores — 5A: Fossil Ridge 390.5, Fairview 338, Arapahoe 258, Lewis-Palmer 185.5, Regis Jesuit 173, Rock Canyon 149, Rocky Mountain 134.5, ThunderRidge 112, Grandview 103, Cherry Creek 83.5, Douglas County 75, Smoky Hill 72, Chatfield 53, Monarch 46, Broomfield 28, Columbine 25, Ralston Valley 22, Mountain Range 21, Legend 16, Lakewood 14, Cherokee Trail 13, Denver South 9. 4A: Valor Christian 228, Heritage 178, Evergreen 131, Silver Creek 121, Rampart 116, Windsor 84, Niwot 64, Liberty 21, Mullen 14, Standley Lake 11, Golden 10, Littleton 3, Skyline 2. 3A: St. Mary's Academy 71, D'Evelyn 40, Longmont 38, Colorado Academy 18, Kent Denver 8.

200 medley relay — 1. Fossil Ridge, 1:42.39; 2. Heritage, 1:47.63; 3. Fairview (Tapley, Schwier, Lanaghen, Reznicek), 1:48.28; 9. Silver Creek (Schlegel, Vu, Findley, Black), 1:52.85; 20. Monarch (Rens, Atkinson, Webster, Barjenbruch), 1:56.86.

200 freestyle — 1. Brittney Beetcher, Fairview, 1:51.17; 2. Barrier, Rocky Mountain, 1:52.42; 3. Reddington, St. Mary's Academy, 1:52.52; 5. Mikayla Seigal, Fairview, 1:54.57; 14. Meghan Magill, Silver Creek, 1:59.12; 19. Sara Findley, Silver Creek, 2:03.30.

200 IM — 1. Kovac, Fossil Ridge, 2:05.20; 2. Friesen, Windsor, 2:07.73; 3. Mathieson, Rock Canyon, 2:10.32; 4. Lucille Matheson, Longmont, 2:10.78; 8. Mya Drost-Parra, Fairview, 2:11.64; 10. Alex Schwier, Fairview, 2:14.93; 12. Payten Irwin, Niwot, 2:11.56; 15. Morgan Simon, Fairview, 2:15.15; 16. Isabel Rish, Fairview, 2:15.31.

50 freestyle — 1. Eiber, Arapahoe, 23.50; 2. Rees, Lewis-Palmer, 23.72; 3. Gillilan, Fossil Ridge, 23.89; 10. Sidney Trimm, Monarch, 24.67; 11. Jillian Martin, Broomfield, 24.88.

Diving — 1. Barker, Douglas County, 479.10; 2. Jackson, Mountain Range, 475.65; 3. Cable, Arapahoe, 451.30; 5. Maddie Barkow, Niwot, 429.10; 8. Katie Conn, Broomfield, 411.65; 19. Alaina Hellenberg, Skyline, 342.30.

100 butterfly — 1. Gillilan, Fossil Ridge, 54.02; 2. Reddington, St. Mary's Academy, 56.62; 3. Kim Lanaghen, Fairview, 57.94; 5. Payten Irwin, Niwot, 58.22; 8. Una Forsythe, Fairview, 58.52; 9. Mikayla Seigal, Fairview, 58.95; 17. Kaia Reznicek, Fairview, 1:00.98; 20. Sidney Trimm, Monarch, 1:01.68.

100 freestyle — 1. Andrews, Heritage, 50.28; 2. Alons, Fossil Ridge, 50.54; 3. Eiber, Arapahoe, 51.28; 8. Brandi Vu, Silver Creek, 53.69; 14. Cailen Chinn, Fairview, 54.07; 19. Jillian Martin, Broomfield, 54.91; 20. Sara Findley, Silver Creek, 54.92.

500 freestyle — 1. Brittney Beetcher, Fairview, 4:57.20; 2. Selin, D'Evelyn, 5:04.98; 3. Owenby, Valor Christian, 5:05.55; 6. Lucille Matheson, Longmont, 5:10.58; 12. Morgan Simon, Fairview, 5:13.71; 13. Robin Cruz-Abrams, Fairview, 5:14.62.

200 free relay — 1. Fossil Ridge, 1:33.92; 2. Arapahoe, 1:36.40; 3. Fairview (Seigal, Forsythe, Reznicek, Beetcher), 1:38.79; 8. Silver Creek (Vu, Weygandt, Black, Magill), 1:41.99; 10. Monarch (Tymoszuk, Mitchell, Webster, Trimm), 1:42.71; 12. Niwot (Balman, Vu, Luo, Irwin), 1:42.60.

100 backstroke — 1. Stewart, Fossil Ridge, 55.72; 2. Riley Tapley, Fairview, 56.55; 3. Griffith, Lewis-Palmer, 57.12; 14. Nikki Schlegel, Silver Creek, 59.74; 16. Mya Drost-Parra, Fairview, 1:00.44; 20. Abbie Shaw, Niwot, 1:01.32.

100 breaststroke — 1. Bartel, Fossil Ridge, 1:01.88; 2. Friesen, Windsor, 1:03.40; 3. Spotts, Heritage, 1:04.81; 6. Brandi Vu, Silver Creek, 1:05.68; 8. Isabel Rich, Fairview, 1:07.43; 18. Alex Schwier, Fairview, 1:10.92; 19. Natalie Brent, Fairview, 1:10.95.

400 free relay — 1. Arapahoe, 3:30.57; 2. Regis Jesuit, 3:34.16; 3. Valor Christian, 3:34.80; 6. Fairview (Beetcher, Chinn, Simon, Seigal), 3:38.91; 14. Silver Creek (Schlegel, Bonde, Magill, Findley), 3:44.55; 19. Monarch (Tymoszuk, Barjenbruch, Rens, Trimm), 3:51.53.