LONGMONT — Anyone who is following the Longmont city prep girls swim teams could tell you that quality and quantity for Silver Creek, Niwot and Longmont is certainly merging this year.
And there is no doubt that was reaffirmed on Saturday at the Centennial Pool, where the Longmont City Meet was as competitive as it has been in a long time.
How competitive you ask? Try one scoring swim, either way between Silver Creek and Niwot, as having made a difference after the Raptors pulled out the team title over the Cougars, 428-427.
Longmont, which will compete at the 3A state meet for the first time, also had a number of solid finishes on its way to third place at 305 points. An up and coming Skyline team finished with 115 points, as well.
It was the third straight city swim meet title for SCHS, but one in which Raptors head coach Debbie Stewart said showed just how good a place the city's swimming scene is.
"I've been coaching for 16 years and there's usually a 20-point spread on either side. We have never been this close, and Niwot swam so well," Stewart said. "We have 60 girls on Longmont now, and all of our teams are just growing. Skyline is going to be a powerhouse in the city soon, too. This is just an exciting meet all the way around."
The meet might not have brought up the best times of the year for some of the top swimmers, but there were several new state cuts in the pool in some of the final heats of each race.
That said, for girls like Niwot's Chase Balman, the day definitely brought out the best in the teams.
Balman, a senior, remembers the last time Niwot won the meet back in 2014 as a freshman, and she also remembers last year vividly with a shoulder surgery keeping her from being in prime condition.
This year, however, her revival in the sport in general — and the addition to NHS of freshmen sensations Payten Irwin and Abbie Shaw — has created some positive vibes.
Niwot's finish was bolstered by a ton of depth and another great diving performance from Maddie Barkow, but Irwin (200 free, 100 butterfly), Shaw (100 back), and Balman (50 free) each won events Saturday. Niwot's 'A' 400 relay team also won — Hanna Luo joined those three to reel that one in and make for a hold-your-breath finish in the team race.
"I didn't miss the meet last year, but I was recovering from major shoulder surgery and just never was there mentally, but this season has been a 180-degree turnaround and I've just fallen back in love with the sport," Balman said. "It's so fun to swim with our younger girls, and it's fun having them actually pushing you.
"We're always watching girls from other teams practice, and we all know each other so well. The district schools are close and this is a great opportunity to show it off."
Stewart's team is the most veteran of the bunch, and the Raptors were once again paced by two relay wins and two individual event wins from Brandi Vu (200 individual medley, 100 free). But the Raptors also got a big swim from one of their youngsters, freshman Karly Pearson — who won the 100 breaststroke with a season-best time of 1:12.55.
With expectations of winning the Northern League and a high finish at state, Pearson viewed Saturday as a good opportunity to put things in focus for the next two weeks as the team will start a little bit of a rest period. The Northern League meet is Feb. 4 and the state meets are the following weekend.
"It's a lot more competitive than it has been and I think it shows this year will be a great year for all of us," Pearson said. "We want to win this one, and we want to win conference again. We're coming out strong and we have great swimmers in all the classes so it will be really fun."
"I'm seeing some of my girls tired right now, and it's the right time for that," Stewart said, crediting Emma Pearson and Nikki Schlegel for swimming hard despite being under the weather. "We need to keep healthy and get our sick girls healthy over the next couple weeks."
While Silver Creek and Niwot will battle at the 4A meet, Longmont continues to show potential as a player in 3A, especially with freshman Lucille Matheson expected to score some big points in the IM and 500 free. Matheson coasted to a win in the 500 on Saturday and finished second to Vu in the IM. For the Trojans, the day was filled with new cuts, though.
Among them, freshman Cailyn Eveland made her debut with individual state cuts in the IM and butterfly and Melanie Boyle also got a cut in the fly.
"I think (the atmosphere) was definitely one of the reasons for my day, because you do have girls from all the schools cheering you on," Eveland said. "For us, it seems like only club swimmers were making state last year but I see a whole bunch of different girls from all levels qualifying for state."
Longmont City Meet
At Centennial Pool
Team scores — Silver Creek 428, Niwot 427, Longmont 305, Skyline 115.
200 medley relay — 1. Silver Creek (Schlegel, Vu, Findley, Weygandt), 1:53.53*; 2. Niwot (Jepson, Kenkel, Luo, Vu), 1:58.83*; 3. Niwot B (Luthens, Ryan, Kitlen, Thramann), 2:01.64*; 4. Silver Creek B (Bonde, Hartrampf, Pearson, Black), 2:02.08*; 5. Longmont (Money, Wyatt, Boyle, Eveland), 2:05.56!
200 freestyle — 1. Payten Irwin, Niwot, 1:59.70*; 2. Meghan Magill, Silver Creek, 2:00.47*; 3. Megan Bush, Silver Creek, 2:11.81.
200 IM — 1. Brandi Vu, Silver Creek, 2:09.86*; 2. Lucille Matheson, Longmont, 2:12.88!; 3. Hanna Luo, Niwot, 2:20.23*; 4. Sara Findley, Silver Creek, 2:20.36*; 5. Karly Pearson, Silver Creek, 2:22.73*; 6. Cailyn Eveland, Longmont, 2:29.32!
50 freestyle — 1. Chase Balman, Niwot, 26.22*; 2. Jenny Wetgandt, Silver Creek, 26.33*; 3. Kristi Vu, Niwot, 26.45*; 4. Nikki Schlegel, Silver Creek, 26.50*; 6. Megan Smith, Longmont, 27.18!
Diving — 1. Maddie Barkow, Niwot, 460.25*; 2. Ally Smith, Silver Creek, 345.05*; 3. Taryn Eveland, Longmont, 341.65!
100 butterfly — 1. Payten Irwin, Niwot, 59.89*; 2. Sara Findley, Silver Creek, 1:03.65*; 3. Eva Kitlen, Niwot, 1:08.08*; 4. Cailyn Eveland, Longmont, 1:08.14!; 5. Melanie Boyle, Longmont, 1:08.97!
100 freestyle — 1. Brandi Vu, Silver Creek, 54.52*; 2. Abbie Shaw, Niwot, 56.09*; 3. Chase Balman, Niwot, 57.59*; 4. Lauren Bonde, Silver Creek, 57.79*; 7. Megan Smith, Longmont, 59.79!; 8. Saffron Kolodziej, Longmont, 1:00.17!
500 freestyle — 1. Lucille Matheson, Longmont, 5:23.15!; 2. Meghan Magill, Silver Creek, 5:35.30*; 3. Amalia Luthens, Niwot, 5:52.49.
200 free relay — 1. Silver Creek (Black, Vu, Weygandt, Magill), 1:42.16*; 2. Niwot (Balman, Shaw, Vu, Irwin), 1:43.23*; 3. Longmont (Smith, Wise, Eveland, Matheson), 1:48.70*; 4. Niwot B (E. Thramann, Stephenson, O. Thramann, Ryan), 1:49.47*.
100 backstroke — 1. Abbie Shaw, Niwot, 1:01.77*; 2. Amalia Luthens, Niwot, 1:04.22*; 3. Claire Jepson, Niwot, 1:04.54*; 4. Nikki Schlegel, Silver Creek, 1:04.65*; 5. Emelie Hartrampf, Silver Creek, 1:06.02*; 6. Lauren Bonde, Silver Creek, 1:06.67*.
100 breaststroke — 1. Karly Pearson, Silver Creek, 1:12.55*; 2. Camryn Kenkel, Niwot, 1:14.85*; 3. Sydney Watt, Longmont, 1:16.48!
400 free relay — 1. Niwot (Balman, Luo, Shaw, Irwin), 3:43.36*; 2. Silver Creek (Magill, Bonde, Schlegel, Findley), 3:43.82*; 3. Silver Creek B (Burns, Haase, Pearson, Hartrampf), 4:00.01*; 4. Longmont (Smith, Brown, Wise, Matheson), 4:01.84!; 5. Niwot (O. Thramann, Ryan, Luthens, Jepson), 4:04.29*.
* — denotes 4A state-qualifying mark. ! — denotes 3A state qualifying mark.