David R. Jennings / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
If you go
What: Colorado state swimming championship meets
When: Class 5A diving preliminaries, Thursday, 9 a.m.
Class 5A swimming prelims, Thursday, 4 p.m.
Class 5A finals, Friday, 4 p.m.
Class 4A swimming prelims, Friday, 4 p.m.
Class 4A diving prelims, Saturday, 9 a.m.
Class 4A finals, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Class 3A swim prelims, Friday, 10:30 a.m.
Class 3A diving prelims, Saturday, 9 a.m.
Class 3A finals, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center, Thornton (Class 5A and Class 3A); Edora Pool Ice Center, Fort Collins (Class 4A).
More info: Multiple teams from the area will be present at all three state championship meets this weekend attempting to bring home some hardware, including Fairview attempting to defend its Class 5A team championship.
As one of a handful of 14-year-old swimmers competing at the USA Swimming/Speedo Junior Winter Nationals back at the beginning of December, Longmont freshman Lucy Matheson was the proverbial “small fish in a big pond” during her stay at College Station, Texas.
Little did she know, however, that meet would serve as a springboard to a fantastic first high school season with the Trojans — a season in which being a part of a growing high school team, for her, has been the highlight.
“It has been a pretty big year, and I truly love my high school team,” Matheson said after a busy Tuesday that included school, two club swim practices and a Longmont gathering for a team photo. “I’m really excited for state and we have such a great team this year. Our relays have been so much fun.”
Matheson is team-oriented, and nobody knows that better than Longmont head coach Kelly Shipley. But there is no doubt that she is the brightest star for the Trojans heading into the first Class 3A state meet, which will begin with Friday morning’s preliminaries at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.
With top-two seeded times in her individual events — a unique combination of the 200 individual medley and the 500 freestyle — Matheson will be in the spotlight. Shipley said she firmly believes Matheson will rise to the occasion, too.
“I think she realizes what she can do, and she’s very experienced but really when I’ve talked to her she has said, ‘yeah I’d like to get a title but in the end it’s about the team,'” Shipley said of Matheson, who won the Northern League title in the 500 and finished within four-tenths of a second to Brandi Vu (4A Silver Creek) in the IM last weekend. “She’s incredible and just a fun girl to watch swim. When she goes for it, she really goes for it.”
Regardless of classification, Matheson’s swims in her individual events are up there among the state’s best, and she is a candidate for gold medals in Saturday’s championship meet. For Longmont, that would end a long drought as sprint freestyle specialist Sara Sullivan in 2005 was the last female gold medalist.
In the IM, she comes in with a seed time of 2:09.03 — her league championship meet race time. Aspen’s Davy Brown is the top 3A seed (2:08.79), but Matheson would be a candidate for the top eight in 4A and 5A, as well.
The same could be said for her distance free, where she has swam a 5:10. D’Evelyn’s Abbey Selin has a seed time of 5:04.98 to lead the 3A field, but again only seven girls in the state have faster times overall.
Matheson isn’t one to predict anything, but she said she feels real good with her positioning going into Friday.
“I’m really excited because I love racing, and I think my seeds are really great,” Matheson said, noting she’s always been a distance specialist. “Five seconds can be a lot to make up, but I’ve trained the freestyle really hard to be ready for it. We’ll just see how it goes this meet.
“I have raced against (Brown) before … she’s really fast and I’m just looking forward to racing her.”
Shipley said Matheson has brought an all-around energy to the team that everyone has cycled — part of the reason why the Trojans will have 22 swims in Friday’s prelims. All three relay teams are in position to score points and there are multiple girls who qualified in two events.
“I most importantly she is just enjoying the time with the team and with the girls … she’s having fun and with that we’ll just kind of see what happens,” Shipley said. “She’s humble and genuine but also a great role model for her peers.”
While Centaurus joins Longmont in 3A and also has reason for optimism with individual events and relays, the bigger-school classifications are also chock full of Boulder County and Broomfield County representatives that could have impacting results.
Niwot and Silver Creek should have plenty of high finishes in 4A, and both teams are projected to finish in the top 10 in team scoring. In 5A, defending team champion Fairview will test its mettle against Fossil Ridge and Arapahoe, while Monarch, Broomfield, Legacy and Boulder all have individuals that should place in the championship finals in different events.
Fairview’s Brittney Beetcher is seeded first in both the 200 free and 500 free, the two events she won last year.