THORNTON — The seniors for the Silver Creek girls swim team looked at Saturday's Class 4A state championships as a way to put a stamp on what they've accomplished over the past four years as an ever-emerging group.
For the Niwot Cougars, the final meet of the season at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton represented, in a lot of ways, a cornerstone with which to build for next year.
Both team's coaches — Sarah Stamp for NHS and Debbie Stewart for Silver Creek — walked away from the pool with expectations met while their swimmers added to memorable seasons for their respective groups.
With just 6.5 points separating them in the team standings, there was a meet inside a meet between the squads. And after Silver Creek won its fourth straight Northern League title just last week, it was Niwot's turn to come out just ahead. The Cougars placed fifth overall with 138 points, while Silver Creek was right there with 131.5 and finished ninth.
"My wish list, I was able to check it all off because we did everything that we possibly could," said Stewart. "It was kind of a grand finale for our seniors, and my goal was top 10 and they were able to squeeze right within that ultimate goal."
"These girls showed me that they can fight and that they can compete," added Stamp. "State's all about swimming (preliminaries) and then turning around and competing even harder on finals. For young swimmers, that's hard, but to have as many underslassmen as we have and do what we did, it was amazing."
With just one senior on the roster, Niwot is a team looking to be a growing force over the next few years . Sophomore Abigail Shaw was the first girl in the pool for NHS and the last girl out on Saturday — leading the 200 medley relay and anchoring the 400 free relay — and there were many of her teammates that shone brightly in between.
Sophomore Payten Irwin finished ninth in the 50 free and then moved up to fourth place in the 100 butterfly (56.72 seconds); Freshman Emiley Yie had two scoring swims (200 free, 500 free); and juniors Claire Jepson and Kristi Vu also gained points for NHS that were crucial in getting ahead of a group of three teams that tied for sixth place.
As for the valuable relays, the Cougars 200 free foursome of Hanna Luo, Vu, Irwin and Yie dropped nearly three seconds off their preliminary time — remarkably doing so from an outside lane to finish third. The 400 relay team, which included Shaw, finished fifth and again dropped nearly three seconds to 3:35.68.
Shaw, however, had the best individual finish for either team on the day, placing second in the backstroke with a time of 57.24. In that event, Fort Collins senior Audrey Reimer set a classification record (54.22), which meant for Shaw it was holding off Rampart's Catriona Clarke that had more impact.
"I knew going to race (Reimer) was going to be a challenge, but I was aiming to stay in second and just really proud that I got it," Shaw said. "And to get a best time doing it? It was good.
"We're all really young as a team but I think we definitely showed that we can race."
For Silver Creek, some young talent certainly exists, as freshman Emma Hermeston and sophomores Maddie Black, Olivia Thramann and Emelie Hartrampf are among those that will carry the torch for the Raptors.
Saturday belonged to a few of Silver Creek's best and most experienced girls, though. While senior Jenny Weygandt was instrumental in two SCHS relays that placed fifth and 11th, Meghan Magill and Brandi Vu carried the Raptors in individual performances.
Vu, who will swim for the University of Denver next year, finished off her prep career by placing fourth in the breaststroke (1:04.14) and ninth in the 200 IM (her time of 2:07.36 would have placed fifth in the championship final).
Magill had perhaps the best weekend of any of her teammates. In the 200 free, she moved up from the 10th seed to finishing fourth overall, and she backed that up with a four-place improvement in the 100 free going from 14th to 10th.
"I walked in as a freshman with these girls and we were all on different club teams, and by the time we were seniors we had all come together in club as well as high school," Magill said. "We're a tight-knit group, and having them by my side ... I wouldn't be where I am without them.
"Just making an 'A' final, it comes with a lot of pressure but also a ton of excitement. I've always loved the 200 free, and I've just worked with all my coaches on how to improve. This year it came a long way."
Rampart won the team title over rival Cheyenne Mountain, while Heritage's Kylie Andrews won two individual events along with Reimer.
Class 4A State Swimming and Diving Championships
Team scores — Rampart 251, Cheyenne Mountain 223, Valor Christian 212, Heritage 194, Niwot 138, Loveland 132, Mullen 132, Highlands Ranch 132, Silver Creek 131.5, Evergreen 126, Fort Collins 107, Windsor 91.5, Air Academy 75, George Washington 72, Greeley West 57, Thompson Valley 49, Pueblo South 39, Liberty 36, Pine Creek 36, Coronado 24, Ponderosa 18, Denver South 14, Littleton 10, Standley Lake 7, Grand Junction 6, Pueblo West 5, Wheat Ridge 2, Golden 2, Fruita Monument 2, Mesa Ridge 1.
200 medley relay — 1. Rampart (Clarke, Chen, Clarke, Immel), 1:42.86; 2. Mullen, 1:48.35; 3. Loveland, 1:49.62; 5. Silver Creek (Hermeston, B. Vu, J. Weygandt, Black), 1:50.27; 13. Niwot (Shaw, Sesselmann, Fulkerson, K. Vu), 1:55.45.
200 freestyle — 1. Kylie Andrews, Heritage, 1:49.65; 2. Lainee Jones, Pueblo South, 1:50.17; 3. Erin Lang, Loveland, 1:52.40; 4. Meghan Magill, Silver Creek, 1:55.79; 6. Abby Shaw, Niwot, 1:57.61; 11. Emiley Yie, Niwot, 1:57.53.
200 IM — 1. Cat Wright, Cheyenne Mountain, 2:02.53; 2. Ella Kirschke, Valor Christian, 2:03.20; 3. Erin Eccleston, Windsor, 2:06.22; 9. Brandi Vu, Silver Creek, 2:07.36.
50 freestyle — 1. Anna Shaw, Heritage, 23.54; 2. Aimee Burton, Highlands Ranch, 24.02; 3. Sofia Zinis, Mullen, 24.03; 9. Payten Irwin, Niwot, 24.48; 15. Kristi Vu, Niwot, 25.19; 16. Maddie Black, Silver Creek, 25.23.
Diving — 1. Izzi Mroz, Valor Christian, 464.40; 2. Maggie Buckley, Rampart, 464.25; 3. Morgan McCarthy, Fort Collins, 462.35.
100 butterfly — 1. Audrey Reimer, Fort Collins, 54.21; 2. Cat Wright, Cheyenne Mountain, 55.01; 3. Allana Clarke, Rampart, 56.19; 4. Payten Irwin, Niwot, 56.72; 7. Emma Hermeston, Silver Creek, 58.38.
100 freestyle — 1. Kylie Andrews, Heritage, 50.66; 2. Ella Kirschke, Valor Christian, 50.84; 3. Lainee Jones, Pueblo South, 51.37; 10. Meghan Magill, Silver Creek, 53.58.
500 freestyle — 1. Erin Lang, Loveland, 5:02.25; 2. Josie Carpenter, Greeley West, 5:07.12; 3. Clare Sanderson, Cheyenne Mountain, 5:07.99; 11. Emiley Yie, Niwot, 5:24.21.
200 free relay — 1. Valor Christian (L. Stenstrom, A. Stenstrom, Hoehn, Kirschke), 1:35.90; 2. Heritage, 1:36.68; 3. Niwot (Luo, K. Vu, Irwin, Yie), 1:38.28; 6. Silver Creek (B. Vu, Hermeston, Black, Magill), 1:38.85.
100 backstroke — 1. Audrey Reimer, Fort Collins, 54.22; 2. Abby Shaw, Niwot, 57.24; 3. Catriona Clarke, Rampart, 57.84; 10. Emma Hermeston, Silver Creek, 59.77; 15. Claire Jepson, Niwot, 1:02.43.
100 breaststroke — 1. Edenna Chen, Rampart, 1:02.33; 2. Aleksandra Olesiak, Air Academy, 1:02.91; 3. Sophia Bricker, Cheyenne Mountain, 1:03.32; 4. Brandi Vu, Silver Creek, 1:04.14.
400 free relay — 1. Valor Christian (L. Stenstrom, A. Stenstrom, Hoehn, Kirschke), 3:28.05; 2. Rampart, 3:28.60; 3. Heritage, 3:33.59; 5. Niwot (Luo, Yie, Irwin, Shaw) 3:35.68; 11. Silver Creek (Thramann, Hartrampf, J. Weygandt, Magill), 3:45.58.