LOVELAND — As good as the competition was on Saturday afternoon at the Mountain View Aquatic Center in Loveland, Niwot's Hanna Luo said there just might have been something missing at the Northern League Championship meet.
Without Silver Creek's deep team competing about 15 miles away in Greeley, the Cougars didn't get the chance to go head-to-head against their favorite rivals for the league title. That didn't, however, detract from a dominating performance as Niwot conquered the four other teams that were in attendance to win their first league swim title in a number of years.
Niwot scored 551 points — ironically the same point total as Silver Creek did in its Longs Peak League championship-capturing performance — and outlasted Centaurus, Thompson Valley, Longmont and Mountain View for the Northern crown.
"We just kind of felt, 'we got this', and we raced our hearts out," Luo said after garnering two individual event wins on Saturday. "We just knew that we had it, and our goal was not to lose any motivation and beat (the competition) by as big a gap as we can."
Just five days before the start of the Class 4A state preliminaries, Luo and company put their best foot forward and seized control of the meet within the first few events.
Niwot won all three relays, and the first two individual events (200 free and 200 individual medley) featured four Niwot finalists in each. Mary Codevilla won the first of her two golds by taking the 200 free race in 1 minute, 54.52 seconds (Grace Shaw and Claire Jepson were third and fourth), and Luo tied teammate Emiley Yie for first place in the IM at 2:11.70.
Luo and Sofia Gaspar went 1-2 in the butterfly — with Luo blazing to a finish of 57.68 seconds to put her in position to be a top-5 seed next week — and Abbie Shaw won the 100 free and 100 back in the back half of the meet. Codevilla won the breaststroke, giving Niwot golds in nine of the 12 events.
Having had high goals coming into the season, the league meet simply solidified that the Cougars are a team that will have their say next Thursday and Friday at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.
"I'm real excited after my fly time," Luo said. "I trained pretty hard this past week to get that time I wanted, but now these next few days is just going to be taper and rest up for state to swim as fast as we can."
"(Preparing for state) is tiring, but I know that with our great team support was can get so far and do really good at state," Grace Shaw said, noting her place on the team with her sister has been unforgettable. "I'm excited for what's to come."
As for Centaurus and Longmont, add to their state contingents gave both the Warriors and Trojans reason to be excited about the meet. The Warriors were second in the team standings with 466 points, distancing themselves from Thompson Valley with several top-three finishes.
Lara Franco and Emma Sundberg finished second and third in the 100 freestyle, Franco was third in the 100 backstroke with a 4A state cut, and Jenkins, Isabella Brakhage and Zoe Keenan went 2-3-4 in the breaststroke.
Centaurus' Sarah Boyer was awarded the league swimmer of the year, while the Warriors also saw diver Kira Biener honored with diver of the year.
"We basically doubled our state team from this meet, so you can't be more excited after something like that," Centaurus coach Cort Sharp said. "There was a high level of competition across the board today and I think our girls saw that and stepped up to do their thing. Emma surprised us a bit, Haley Maddocks got to state, Sydney Brooker, Madison Lin, Isabella ... we just were able to add a lot of individuals to our state team."
Longmont's Lucille Matheson, a defending champion in the 500 free (3A) now tasked with swimming against some tougher foes in 4A, finished second in the 200 freestyle and won the 500 free comfortably.
The Trojans also got a state-qualifying performance from diver Sydney Fuller, who finished third with 357.85 points, and two top-eight finishes from Maggie Wise.
Northern League Championships
At Mountain View Aquatic Center
Team scores — Niwot 55, Centaurus 466, Thompson Valley 335, Longmont 284, Mountain View 216
200 medley relay — 1. Niwot (A. Shaw, Codevilla, Fulkerson, Vu), 1:54.16*; 2. Centaurus (Brooker, Jenkins, M. Franco, Boyer), 1:57.66*; 3. Mountain View, 2:01.37.
200 freestyle — 1. Mary Codevilla, Niwot, 1:54.52*; 2. Lucille Matheson, Longmont, 1:56.02*; 3. Grace Shaw, Niwot, 2:00.86*.
200 IM — 1. Emiley Yie, Niwot, 2:11.70*; 1. Hanna Luo, Niwot, 2:11.70*l 3. Emma McKalko, Thompson Valley, 2:15.97*.
50 freestyle — 1. Arden McCauley, Thompson Valley, 25.63*; 2. Kristi Vu, Niwot, 25.95*; Ella Thramann, Niwot, 26.13*.
Diving — 1. Ryley Williams, Thompson Valley, 392.35*; 2. Clara Stewart, Thompson Valley, 359.35*; 3. Sydney Fuller, Longmont, 357.85*.
100 butterfly — 1. Hanna Luo, Niwot, 57.68*; 2. Sofia Gaspar, Niwot, 1:03.05*; 3. Arden McCauley, Thompson Valley, 1:03.76*.
100 freestyle — 1. Abbie Shaw, Niwot, 54.03*; 2. Lara Franco, Centaurus, 57.49*; 3. Emma Sundberg, Centaurus, 57.89*.
500 freestyle — 1. Lucille Matheson, Longmont, 5:15.37*; 2. Grace Shaw, Niwot, 5:19.80*; Emma McKalko, Thompson Valley, 5:25.24*.
200 free relay — 1. Niwot (Mitchell, Yie, Vu, Luo), 1:42.57*; 2. Thompson Valley, 1:44.87*; 3. Centaurus (Boyer, Keenan, Lin, L. Franco), 1:48.35*.
100 backstroke — 1. Abbie Shaw, Niwot, 56.73*; 2. Claire Jepson, Niwot, 1:02.62*; 3. Lara Franco, Centaurus, 1:03.57*.
100 breaststroke — 1. Mary Codevilla, Niwot, 1:06.78*; 2. McKenzie Jenkins, Centaurus, 1:09.41*; 3. Isabella Brakhage, Centaurus, 1:11.62*.
400 free relay — 1. Niwot (Yie, A. Shaw, Luo, Codevilla), 3:39.59*; 2. Thompson Valley, 3:51.98*; 3. Centaurus (Sundberg, Brooker, Jenkins, L. Franco), 3:59.79*
* — denotes state-qualifying mark