Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
An open-water swimming enthusiast, Fairview head swim coach Bob Smartt stops short of calling himself some kind of distance swimming guru, particularly when it comes to coaching the Knights in the 500 freestyle race.
The Knights’ prominence in the event suggests there’s something magical in the pool water at the South Boulder Recreation Center, but Smartt is the first to credit several people other than himself.
Truthfully, the Boulder and Broomfield counties have produced several distance queens in the past few years and it would not be hyperbolic to say the 500 free is a BoCo special.
“Really, to tell the truth, it just means we have some good clubs in this area that are more aerobic than anaerobic in their training — in other words, the clubs in the area do a great job of training the girls’ aerobic systems,” Smartt said on Thursday, noting that even on the national scene Colorado swimmers fair better in distance events most any other. “The event is owned here in Colorado by the club swimmers.
“I do encourage the girls to do it, but it’s not fair to say I’m some great distance coach because I’m not. We’ve benefited greatly from a lot of girls that got going early with a great aerobic start.”
Again in 2018-19, Fairview is expected to hinge many of its state meet points in the event — and for good reason. Amelie Lessing and Morgan Simon, both seniors, return after third- and fourth-place finishes at last year’s Class 5A state meet, and sophomore Karla Lessing is right there as well already with a sixth-place finish in her cap.
Juniors Robin Cruz-Abrams and Heather MacLachlan also bring a lot of experience to the event and will seek to be Fairview’s fourth and final possible scorer at state.
It falls right in line with what Fairview has done consistently since at least 2013-14.
Amelie and Karla Lessing have the additional benefit of pushing each other as sisters wanting to get the best of each other. Amelie has finished third and second, respectively, the past two years while Karla made her smashing debut last year and is quickly becoming her older sister’s favorite competition.
At the same time, Amelie really wants to keep a streak alive of posting good points for her team in the event.
“Most of the time when I’m doing the 500 I’ll be racing my sister … and it’s motivating for sure, but terrifying at the same time because I don’t want my little sister beating me, ever,” Amelie said. “The 500 is a great race and I never get tired of doing it. I always have a certain time in mind, and I’m always going to go after that time even if I see myself behind pace after 200 (yards) or whatever.”
Back in 2013-14, Amanda Richey of Boulder won the Class 5A 500 event, and since then 31 different times has a BoCo area girls swimmer scored points in the event at state. As part of that, on 10 different occasions has a girl placed top-3. Fariview’s Brittney Beetcher twice won 5A, and Longmont’s Lucy Matheson, in addition to winning the 3A state IM title last year, has placed second in the 500 each of the past two years.
Karla Lessing has noticed something about Smartt — he does a fine job of relaying the idea of pace in the state’s longest prep event.
“(Smartt) is really good at giving us a pace set and just helps us to understand it,” Karla said. “We know it gives a lot of points to the team and we know a lot of people want to do it. That, and typically when I’m racing it, it’s against some of my club teammates and everything, just girls you want to race against and know you’ll do well.”
The yards the girls swim during any given week, in practice alone, are tremendous, thus making the idea of going 500 yards not that daunting from a physical standpoint. However, Amelie said that it’s the mental challenges in the middle of a meet that prove to be the nerve-wracking element.
There is, after all enough time to correct a small mistake or two.
“There are a lot of mental challenges you have to overcome. If you’re to mess up a start … you can’t keep thinking about it and you have to just try and push as hard as you can,” Amelie said. “Same with a turn. You mess up one, you just have to try and correct it the next time and keep going.”
Fairview has a heap of fabulous 500 swimmers, but it’s not just the Knights and Longmont that have state scoring hopefuls in 2018-19.
Niwot’s sophomore Emiley Yie finished 11th in 4A last year, and she’ll be challenged to hold her position as the classification grows immensely this season. Broomfield and Centaurus join the 4A ranks, too, and the Eagles boast Rebecca Thompson and Mairead Powers as girls looking to get into the 500 finals. The Warriors’ Georgia Dauzvardis also qualified for state in the 500 last year.
“Absolutely, if we don’t have (four state scorers in the 500) then I’ve done something really wrong as a coach,” Smartt said. “We’ve got so much there in talent.”