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Girls swimming: Holy Family takes fourth at Class 3A state meet

Tigers finish second year as a program with continued growth

Holy Family's Abigail Philipsen prepares to ...
Brent W. New/
Holy Family’s Abigail Philipsen prepares to race the 100 backstroke at the Class 3A state meet on Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2021 in Thornton.

THORNTON — Its state meet delayed by a snowstorm that teased, then bludgeoned, Holy Family’s girls swim team embraced yet another twist in this pandemic season and managed to come out ahead.

The sophomore-freshman tandem of Abigail Philipsen and Cate Chapman went three-four in the 100-yard backstroke, freshman diver Mary Kate Cavanaugh nabbed silver and the Tigers concluded their second season as a program with a fourth-place finish Tuesday at the Class 3A state meet at Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center.

Afterward, coach Mary Whitney took selfies with her swimmers. She’d hollered as her team flooded the podium throughout the day. All of it seemed worth cheering following a season full of challenges far deeper than the back of the pool.

“We’re just making leaps and bounds,” Whitney said. “It was a tough year but my girls are tougher, and they proved it in the pool today.”

With Whitney in charge, Holy Family has taken no time turning itself from the fresh-faced newbie to a contender in the 3A classification.

After a 14th-place finish served as the Tigers’ introduction to the state meet in their inaugural season 13 months ago, the sequel was crisper, more well-rounded. And that’s in spite of the blizzard that delayed the meet by 72 hours and effectively forced the Tigers to go without pool time in the three days leading up.

Making no excuses, Whitney said, “They did what they could with their workouts, they’re hard workers and they do it in and out of the pool every day.”

And her team proved as much from when doors opened just after 6 a.m., to close almost 12 hours later, with consistent trips to the podium and seven top-eight finishes.

Cavanaugh’s strong debut on the diving board led the way as her score of 432.30 sat only behind Discovery Canyon junior Victoria Sanders’. As one of just three freshmen in the state field, the Tigers’ talented acrobat opened the season with 477.60 in January and it remained the top score among 3A divers until Sanders’ golden 479.35 at VMAC.

Sophomore teammate Kathryne Johnson, meanwhile, took 11th in the event (315.10).

“They are two incredibly talented, young girls,” Whitney said. “Both of them scoring points for the team going into swim was huge for us.”


Holy Family's Cate Chapman talks with ...Philipsen was fifth in the 200 IM (2:15.19) after taking sixth in it last season, while Chapman was sixth in the 100 butterfly (1:00.30). Philipsen then went 58.28 in the backstroke, followed closely by Chapman at 58.76.


The Tigers’ day in the pool started with a sixth-place finish in the 200 medley relay (1:54.63) and ended with a seventh-place finish in the 400 free relay (3:50.10). And interwoven between, Olivia Zuhoski was 19th in the 100 freestyle (58.68) and 13th in the breaststroke (1:14.11), and Kaitlyn Genzer was 11th in the 500 freestyle (5:37.25) followed by Summer Norwell (5:49.89) in 16th.

“It’s definitely been a wild ride,” said Philipsen, who also battled through injury for part of the season. “You just got to bring your A-game every single race, every single practice. You never know when it will be stripped away, like we learned (when things were shut down) a week after our season.”

Like the 5A and 4A state meet last week, the 3A schedule was spaced out due to capacity restrictions coinciding with the pandemic. Participants, coaches and family members in attendance were cleared in and out after every event.

The shortened swim season ended with 11 area teams scoring at a state meet. Fairview was runner-up to Cherry Creek in 5A, while Niwot took third in 4A behind two more individual titles from Mary Codevilla. Holy Family was the lone 3A representative.

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