LOVELAND — Brandi Vu went through what can only be described as a sophomore slump.
After a breakout freshman season in 2014-15 that saw the Silver Creek standout finish third at state in the 100-yard breaststroke, last season didn't go nearly as planned.
"She's definitely on a comeback. Last years she hit a low and she has built it back up and she has her mind set on a lot of things," said Silver Creek coach Debbie Stewart, whose star junior won both the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke on Saturday in the finals of the Northern League championships at Mountain View Aquatic Center.
"She's going after it and that bump in the road didn't slow her down."
Vu, who was also a part of two championship relay teams on Saturday, was a big part of the Raptors impressive run to a league title. Silver Creek showed off its depth with a score of 523 points to easily outpace second place Thompson Valley's 364. Niwot was third with 360.
"When I looked at the heat sheet yesterday and today, I kept seeing three and four girls and it is not just the girls that are winning it," Stewart said. "It's brining back four girls that helps win a conference championship and when you get a team as big as 60 girls, that is where it comes from, and having the stability to build that confidence."
Vu went head-to-head with Longmont freshman Lucy Matheson in the 200 IM and after turning for the final 25-yards with what appeared to be a comfortable body length lead, Vu held off a late charge from the Trojans frosh and won by less than a second in 2:08.73.
In the breaststroke, her premier event, Vu dominated from the start. She was a three second winner over Thompson Valley's Katie von der Lippe, touching in a Northern League record time of 1:05.50.
"Conference is so much fun because the entire team is here and it is so much more a team environment," said Vu, who competed less than 100 percent while nursing a sore throat. "It's a lot less pressure than state."
In addition to Vu and three relay wins, the Raptors also got championship swims from Meghan Magill (2:00.19 in the 200 free) and Sara Findley (54.09 in the 100 free).
After a valiant effort in the 200 IM, Matheson came back in the 500 free and dominated. From the first 50 yards, when she was two seconds faster than the rest of the field, Matheson just continued to pull away and eventually won by over 11 seconds, posting a time of 5:16.14.
"I go out fast and I just try to hold on," said Matheson, who heads a Trojans team that will be looking to make waves — along with Centaurus — in the first Class 3A state meet next Friday and Saturday at VMAC. "I'm excited for state, it'll be fun especially since we have so many more qualifiers.
"I would really like to win an event, but it is really all about the team."
There were highs and lows for Niwot on Saturday. Cougars senior Maddie Barkow, despite having a less than stellar final three dives, did more than enough in the first eight rounds to claim her fourth title.
Fellow senior Chase Balman emerged victorious from a deep field in the 50 free, touching in 25.58 second to edge her sophomore teammate Kristi Vu (no relation to Brandi) at the wall.
"It was a great day," said Niwot coach Sarah Stamp, who was named by her peers as the Northern Conference coach of the year. "For Chase to get first in the 50 was so exciting, it was huge. I couldn't be more proud of her to win that her senior year."
NORTHERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Mountain View Aquatic Center
Team scores — Silver Creek 523, Thompson Valey 364, Niwot 360, Longmont 232, Centaurus 223, Mountain View 187, Greeley Central 40.
200 medley relay — 1. Silver Creek (Nikki Schlegel, Brandi Vu, Sara Findley, Jenny Weygandt) 1:53.11; 2. Thompson Valley 1:54.91; 3. Niwot (Claire Jepson, Camryn Kenkel, Hanna Luo, Kristi Vu) 1:58.67.
200 freestyle — 1. Meghan Magill, Silver Creek, 2:00.19; 2. Payten Irwin, Niwot, 2:00.48; 3. Skylar Riley, Centaurus, 2:01.95.
200 IM — 1. Brandi Vu, Silver Creek, 2:08.73; 2. Lucy Matheson, Longmont, 2:09.03; 3. Haylee Buyers, Thompson Valley, 2:14.39.
50 freestyle — 1. Chase Balman, Niwot, 25.58; 2. Kristi Vu, Niwot, 25.93; 3. Jenny Weygandt, Silver Creek, 25.94.
Diving — 1. Maddie Barkow, Niwot, 454.10 pts.; 2. Taryn Eveland, Longmont, 359.80; 3. Ally Smith, Silver Creek, 345.80.
100 butterfly — 1. Katie von der Lippe, Thompson Valley, 58.61; 2. Payten Irwin, Niwot, 58.73; 3. Nikki Schlegel, Silver Creek, 1:01.06.
100 freestyle — 1. Sara Findley, Silver Creek, 54.09; 2. Skylar Riley, Centaurus, 55.54; 3. Abbie Shaw, Niwot, 55.76.
500 freestyle — 1. Lucy Matheson, Longmont, 5:16.14; 2. Sophie Kubik, Thompson Valley, 5:27.99; 3. Emma Pearson, Silver Creek, 5:32.13.
200 free relay — 1. Silver Creek (Bandi Vu, Jenny Weygandt, Maddie Black, Meghan Magill) 1:42.48; 2. Thompson Valley 1:46.28; 3. Longmont (Megan Smith, Cailyn Eveland, Saffron Kolodziej, Lucy Matheson) 1:46.80.
100 backstroke — 1. Haylee Buyers, Thompson Valley, 59.04; 2. Abbie Shaw, Niwot, 1:00.24; 3. Nikki Schlegel, Silver Creek, 1:00.76.
100 breaststroke — 1. Brandi Vu, Silver Creek, 1:05.50 (Northern Conference record); 2. Katie von der Lippe, Thompson Valley, 1:08.43; 3. Karly Pearson, Silver Creek, 1:11.24.
400 free relay — 1. Silver Creek (Meghan Magill, Lauren Bonde, Nikki Schlegel, Sara Findley) 3:40.27; 2. Niwot (Chase Balman, Hanna Luo, Abbie Shaw, Payten Irwin) 3:42.40; 3. Thompson Valley 3:43.14.
* — denotes state-qualifying mark