The Northern League increased to 10 girls swimming teams this season, but the conference will be split for championship weekend.
This weekend, for the first time, the league will hold two championship meets. Remaining in the Northern League meet — which will be held Friday and Saturday at the Mountain View Aquatic Center in Loveland — will be Niwot, Centuarus, Longmont, Mountain View and Thompson Valley. The other meet, the Longs Peak League meet also Friday and Saturday at the Greeley Recreation Center, will be comprised of Silver Creek, Erie, Broomfield, Windsor and Greeley West.
"My personal preference is that I would have liked to stay with the whole league together," Silver Creek coach Debbie Stewart said. "It's exciting to have the new league teams but I wanted to stay at 10 teams for the league meet. It will still be competitive, but I wanted to compete against Niwot. They are strong and tough this year."
Silver Creek will be the only team from the original Northern League in the new Longs Peak League this weekend. Broomfield and Greeley West move down after competing in the Front Range League last season, Thompson Valley comes over from the Tri-Valley League and Erie is a newcomer in its first season.
Stewart says all the times and records will count towards the Northern League, however, and her team is focused on going for a fifth straight league title in Greeley.
"It would be nice," Stewart said of possibly extending that streak. "If the girls can come together and divers pull together like they have all year, it will be nice for the team to get that fifth straight conference title."
Getting the title will not come easy for the Raptors this weekend as Stewart says many of her girls are battling sickness heading into the week.
"Some girls are battling the flu and cold, but every team has that," Stewart said. "If the girls can battle through that, we'll have a good conference meet and be ready to go to state the following week."
In addition to going for another league title, a handful of Silver Creek swimmers are also trying to secure a spot in the state meet, some coming in tenths of a second short of 4A qualifying marks so far. The Raptors, like most teams, will swim all of their competitors with the hopes of carrying momentum into state next week.
The Northern League meet is expected to be led by Niwot, but Centaurus comes into the meet with a 3-1 league record this year. Longmont, Mountain View and Thompson Valley all have a handful of swimmers that will challenge for the best times in a number of events as well.
One of the larger league meets this weekend will be the 5A Front Range League meet with 11 schools competing for the conference title. The meet will be held in two days with preliminary heats scheduled for Friday and the finals set for Saturday. Fairview, the No. 1 team in the Class 5A polls, will sit the majority of their state qualifiers out this weekend to focus on the state meet instead. Other local schools like Legacy, Monarch and Boulder will race their top swimmers, which should set up a competitive race for the league title in Thornton.
In the Tri-Valley League, the Skyline Falcons will be one of six schools competing for the conference title this weekend. Most of the attention at the meet will center on Berthoud and Holyoke, two teams that did not lose a league meet during the regular season.
10 swimmers to watch this weekend
1. Katey Lewicki, Monarch: The junior is turning in an impressive season for the Coyotes and looks to finish strong ahead of the Class 4A state meet next week. Lewicki holds the classification's fastest times in the 200 IM (2:07.31), 100 backstroke (54.85) and 100 butterfly (57.78). She is also second in the 200 freestyle (1:56.05).
2. Lucille Matheson, Longmont: One of the top swimmers for local teams this year, Matheson again looks primed to lead the Trojans to the Class 4A state meet. Already sitting with the fastest time in the 500 freestyle (5:08.94) and third in the 200 freestyle (1:56.75), she will look to add a couple of strong finishes at the Northern League championships this weekend.
3. Payten Irwin, Erie: Leading the Tigers in their first season, Irwin is one of the top swimmers in Class 3A. She ranks in the top 10 in six of seven individual swim events, led by the second-fastest time in her classification in the 100 butterfly (58:04).
4. Abigail Shaw, Niwot: Plenty of quality swimmers are scheduled to swim for Niwot, but it's Shaw's veteran experience as a junior that makes her one of the swimmers to watch this weekend. This year, she is ranked in the top 10 of fastest times in Class 4A in three individual events — the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
5. Madison Black, Silver Creek: One of the swimmers turning it up of late is Black for the Raptors. She was first in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 freestyle at the St. Vrain All City Meet and followed up by winning the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly in a dual meet versus Greeley West. Her presence will make Silver Creek tough to beat in the 4A Longs Peak League meet.
6. Mairead Powers, Broomfield: A steady swimmer for the Eagles this season, Powers has been strong in distance events and relays this year. Her times in the 200 and 500 freestyle are both in the top 10 in Class 4A. Expect Powers to lead Broomfield at the 4A Longs Peak League meet in Greeley.
7. Shannon Feran, Legacy: Many swimmers for the Legacy Lightning have turned in impressive seasons this year. While plenty of underclassmen have stepped up for the team, Feran and her veteran experience may push the Lightning towards the 5A Front Range League title this weekend. Her best events include the 100 freestyle and 200 IM.
8. Rya Muller, Fairview: The Knights will hold out most of their state qualifiers this weekend to get ready for state next week, but a couple of qualifiers will be in action this weekend. Leading Fairview in the 5A Front Range League meet will be Muller, the No. 1 seeded diver in the field.
9. Emilia Culberson, Boulder: Culberson has taken a big step forward this season for the Panthers and will look for some late momentum at the 5A Front Range League meet this weekend. Culberson is scheduled to race in the 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 400 freestyle relay for the Panthers.
10. Sarah Boyer, Centaurus: Boyer, a veteran who leads the Warriors swim team, is coming off some strong performances of late. She won the 50 freestyle and finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke in a dual win over Erie. Her veteran presence will help Centaurus in the 4A Northern League meet.