As the end of the winter preps season approaches, so does the finale of title defenses for reigning girls swimming state champions across the state of Colorado.
The final stage of those title defenses began in earnest on Thursday when the Colorado High School Activities Association released the state meet psych sheets for all classifications, just ahead of the start of the preliminaries for the Class 5A championships held later in the evening at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center. And with the long-awaited reveal of those documents, many eyes across the Centennial State turned towards the BoCoPreps.com area.
Swimmers like Erie’s Payten Irwin, who is a defending Class 3A state champion in two events, must now fend off all comers while simultaneously helping their respective teams prepare for what figure to be some of the fastest swims of the 2019-20 campaign.
“I feel really good leading up to state,” Irwin said. “We had another diver qualify (for state at the Tri-Valley League meet) and a couple of other swimmers also qualify, so that will help build our state team. I’m really excited about that. I think state will be even better.
“I think the program has grown so much. We have so many more girls who qualified for state. We’re really excited about it.”
With Irwin winning last year’s 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly titles to lead the way, the Erie swim team placed ninth in 3A as a squad of newcomers. The Tigers now enter their sophomore state meet as the ninth-ranked team in 3A with Irwin seeded fourth in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 butterfly.
In a similar situation to Erie’s last winter, the Holy Family girls swim and dive program is headed for its first state meet. Holy Family doesn’t plan to simply be a grateful participant, with swimmers like Anna Martinez, Abigail Philipsen, Sydney Brooker and three relay groups having just led the Tigers to a Tri-Valley League title in their program’s first season.
In 4A, ninth-ranked Niwot is coming off a runner-up team finish from last winter and will be fighting against other local clubs like eighth-ranked Silver Creek and 10th-ranked Monarch. Niwot sophomore Mary Codevilla is seeded first in the 200 freestyle and Monarch senior Katey Lewicki is seeded first in the 100 backstroke.
“We’re certainly not as strong as last year but that doesn’t mean, by any stretch, that we’re not strong going in,” Niwot head coach Sarah Stamp said. “We have a nice group of girls on this year’s team and we’ll piece things together and certainly shoot for the top five.”
All three of the aforementioned 4A clubs will be chasing the fifth-ranked Broomfield Eagles, which enters the state meet with over a half dozen swimmers seeded top-nine in their respective events.
“We’ve been doing really well this season,” Broomfield’s Kaylee Austin said. “We have a super-strong team. I think overall, we’re going into this with a positive mindset knowing we worked our butts off all season for this. It’s been a really successful season.”
Then there’s Fairview in 5A, where the Knights will battle top-ranked Cherry Creek and Arapahoe to defend their title from last winter. Knights freshman Edith Simecek is seeded first in the 100 butterfly
Also in 5A, Legacy enters as the top seed in the 200 medley relay, the 200 IM (Sabrina Rachjaibun) and the 100 backstroke (Sydney Bales).
As previously mentioned, a week full of events at VMAC began on Thursday with 5A prelims, and the finals Friday will follow 3A preliminary swims. The smallest classification will have the whole stage on Saturday, and 4A will follow with prelims and finals on Tuesday and Wednesday.