It was a bit nostalgic, and wholly therapeutic.
A recent meeting in the pool, swimming laps for the first time in months, conjured up plenty of emotions for 2016 Fairview graduates Sandra Freeman and Adee Weller.
The two had gone their separate ways after their time with the Knights — with Freeman attending Northwestern and Weller taking her talents to North Carolina-Asheville — but the pair really never grew apart.
After each of their campuses were shut down in the spring because of the spread of the coronavirus, the two got the chance to head back to Boulder, and when pools finally opened up in recent days, those first few swim strokes in the water in weeks were together.
“It brought back so many memories,” Freeman quipped in a recent phone interview. “Just the idea that we had been club teammates, and teammates at Fairview, it really brought out why I have dedicated so much of my life to swimming.”
Freeman and Weller may have been club teammates, sharing in individual success that included Olympic Trials cuts. But when reached to talk about their time swimming for FHS, both agreed there was nothing like competing as a team toward state championships and celebrating all the little moments of a large group with the bigger picture in mind.
After winning a team title in 2004, Fairview under longtime coach Bob Smartt built up slow and steady toward what could now be called a dynasty. The Knights broke through in 2016 once again for a second team title, and have since won two more (2019 and 2020, with the most recent coming under new direction) while also finishing no lower than third place in any year since 2013.
While it may be the year-round swimmers that scored the big points toward those titles, both Freeman and Weller said they always appreciated the idea that there was (and still is) something everyone can take with them being a part of the program.
“I think (Smartt) made it a really positive environment … whether you were someone who wasn’t really a competitive swimmer or maybe weren’t the most confident going in, he did a good job of making sure there were goals that everyone could accomplish,” said Weller, who is set to attend post-graduate school at Emory University this fall. “Whatever level you were as a swimmer, there was something for you.
“Everyone was really supportive of each other. People were able to support each other in their accomplishments, and that made everyone want to accomplish more (themselves).”
Team scoring at the state meets has always favored depth, and all three of the Knights’ most recent titles suggest as much.
In 2016, Brittney Beetcher’s two individual titles were the only top-of-the-podium performances (Fossil Ridge and Regis, meanwhile, were represented with three wins apiece).
In 2019, with a change in state scoring in which 20 places earned points, FHS had one individual winner (Emma Weber, 100 breaststroke) while winning two of three relay events. And this past February, not a single event saw a Fairview female in first place, yet the Knights won the meet by more than 34 points.
“During that (100 backstroke) I was really swimming for the team and the points,” Jenna Reznicek told BoCoPreps.com in February after placing second in a pivotal event which put FHS ahead of Cherry Creek with just a couple of races left. “I didn’t know how much it would factor into the win. But I definitely knew every race counted, so I just gave it my all.”
“That state championship was one of the most exciting meets that I’ve been part of, possibly of my whole swimming career,” Weller said of the 2016 finals. “When it came down to the final events and we had kind of locked in that point total, it was a really exciting time, and I can still remember how loud the deck was.”
Smartt was known for focusing on trying to win three invitationals every year — the Coaches Invite, the Boulder County Invite and the state championships. Dozens of girls contributed directly to dominating those events annually.
While that will surely continue, the atmosphere created in events all the way down to practices is something that still resonates with Freeman. The program has seen teams with as many as 100 participants in a given season, which is unmatched in Colorado.
“To see the women who perhaps didn’t swim year-round, to see them make state cuts and to see them perform super well at state — that was always exciting,” Freeman said. “What we had through my time at Fairview was a great culture. Everyone was always having fun, and it really showed how the team really loved swimming and how everyone could band together around it. At the end of the day, that’s what helped us be so successful in the pool.”
Details of the Dynasty: Fairview girls swimming
Coaches: Bob Smartt, Francoise Bentley, Stacey Tobey.
Dynasty years: While state title contenders have always dotted Fairview’s roster, this most recent period since 2014 has been particularly impressive from a team perspective. With a handful of winners in tow but dozens of points contributors, only once since 2014 has FHS not produced a team trophy to add to the cases in the hallways, garnering three state titles (2016, 2019, 2020) and two runner-up finishes (2017, 2018).
Major contributors (school record holders and All-Americans): Sidney Andrew, Brittney Beetcher, Julia Benz, Julia Box, Cailen Chinn, Mya Drost-Parra, Sandra Freeman, Kim Lanaghen, Amelie Lessing, Jessie Li, Morgan Lukinac, Michaela Mullison, Mikalya Seigal, Jenna Reznicek, Kaia Reznicek, Isabel Rich, Sienna Stonesmith, Alex Schweir, Riley Tapley, Logan Tidstrom, Emma Weber, Adee Weller.
Most dominant moment: With a new scoring system in place, the 2019 Fairview team beat second-place Fossil Ridge by more than 100 points and set a team-scoring standard in Colorado with 495.5 points. The Knights had 32 swims that scored points, including 19 top-10 finishes. State championships came by way of the 200 medley relay team, the 200 freestyle relay team, and Emma Weber’s 100 breaststroke.