BROOMFIELD — Of all the winter high school sports in Colorado, girls swimming has perhaps been the most affected by COVID-19.
The ladies around the state have participated in virtual meets, in which teams compete separately and compare times at the end. On Saturday at the Broomfield Community Center, Fairview, Boulder and Broomfield all got the chance to compete in person for the first time in the Front Range League meet.
Next week, they’ll do it again at state, which takes place March 11-13 at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center.
“It is so, so, so nice,” Boulder senior Bena Koehn exclaimed. “After racing nobody for the past five weeks and being in just a rec center pool, it’s great to be live with people. Seeing everybody cheering is so much better. In this environment, you just want to work so much harder and you want to be there more for your team.”
The Boulder Valley School District/FRL meet Saturday allowed the ladies to get a taste for their first large event and it was sweet. Many of the girls dropped their times, inspired by a heightened sense of camaraderie and team spirit.
Fairview has won state in 5A the past two years and looks to complete the 3-peat next weekend. Last season, the Knights won in a true team effort as no girl earned an individual title in a single event. Saturday’s meet was no different as Julia Urbanowski and Kirsten Lee won the team’s only two individual event titles in the 100-yard butterfly (57.54 seconds) and the 100 backstroke (58.89), respectively.
They’re favored to win the 5A crown again with a No. 1 ranking heading into the big meet next weekend.
At the Broomfield Community Center, the Eagles — ranked eighth in 4A — dominated the meet they hosted. They won five of 11 events. Senior Mairead Powers took the 200 individual medley (2:09.09) and the 500 freestyle (5:13.14). Sophomore Ellianne Effland won the 100 breaststroke (1:07.62). The 200 medley relay (1:51.51) and 400 freestyle relay (3:40.96) also emerged victorious, thanks to different combinations of Powers, Effland, Kaylee Austin, Nikki Gorman and Maelynn Higgins.
“All of my teammates did spectacular today, so many drops,” Austin said. “I had my best times of the season. It’s been a weird year, so it’s hard to not be hard on yourself at dual meets and such. But with how this meet went, it was really phenomenal for the circumstances this year.”
Boulder boasted a strong meet as well, notching four individual victories. Koehn came out on top in the 200 free (1:56.27) and 100 free (53.32), a performance that senior Ella Riccio complemented with her own individual title in the 50 free (23.96). The Panthers also won the 200 free relay (1:42.12) thanks to Riccio, Madison Felix, Embla Weibring and Jordan Pederson.
With the pandemic looming over Colorado this year, the state meet will look a little different. Only the top 20 qualifiers of each classification will get to compete in each event, which will be based on times and ties from the regular season. The top teams can have a maximum of four entries per event.
Prior to Saturday, Riccio was Boulder’s only top-20 ranked swimmer at fourth in the 5A 50 free. Broomfield had girls in the top 20 of 11 events and Fairview had 25 top-20 rankings.
All the ladies can do for now is hope their times hold so that they can punch their ticket to state.
“It’s really difficult, because for the most part, you don’t know what other people are swimming, how fast they’re going on other teams at other meets,” Lee said. “You just have to go as fast as you can go at that moment and just hope for the best.”