THORNTON — Legacy senior Sabrina Rachjaibun has been a stud in the pool for the Lightning for a while now, and Saturday’s Front Range League championships at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center only served to prove that fact.
When her head bobbed out of the water for the final time in the 200-yard freestyle race, her hands firmly rested on the wall, she looked up to the board to learn that she not only blasted past her seed time of 1 minute, 52.13 seconds, but that she set the league record — alongside Mountain Range’s Marissa Inouye — when the two tied for first place at 1:50.10.
They beat the old mark by 0.37 seconds.
“I usually just have fun out there and really just try and compete at that level,” Rachjaibun said. “The thing is, no matter what, I still have someone to compete against. It’s not like I always have to be at the top. That’s always important to me, to have that competitiveness and the drive to get first and all that stuff.”
She’s hoping that with the Class 5A state meet just around the corner, set to start on Thursday at the same venue, she’ll continue to swim her best times and maybe earn a title or two along the way.
The Lightning ran away with the team title, scoring 856.50 points to second-place Fossil Ridge’s 736. Rachjaibun herself added more gold in the 500 free (5:00.23) and silver in the 200 free relay (1:37.15) and the 400 free relay (3:32.80).
Hitting all the marks
Long before Erie senior Anna Lillie suited up for her first event on Saturday afternoon, she knew she didn’t have to sweat her results. She had already qualified for 11 swim events.
She wanted to end her final season with a bang, and put in the extra work to ensure it would happen through added workouts, lifting and mindfulness.
“I set my goal to qualify every event because I’ve gone to state every year and I was like, ‘I want to try something new. It’s my senior year,'” she said. “And so now going into state, I feel like, OK, I’ve done it all and now I can really zone in on the events — 50 and 100 — that I want to swim.”
Next week, when she competes on Colorado high school’s biggest stage, she hopes to make the championshi finals in her two best events, the 50 free and the 100 free. Lillie earned a couple of 11th-place finishes in the 50 free (24.98) and the 200 free relay (1:45.75).
A Fish out of water
Swimming on a team of water titans can be a bit difficult, especially when COVID-19 entered the conversation for Fairview junior Isabel Fisher.
But “Fish” has been able to make the most of her sophomore and junior seasons, COVID-free, in the years since that freshman year debacle. This year, she earned her first state-qualifying mark in the 100 fly.
“They say I’m speedy like a fish. My coach Greg (Tucker), he gave (the nickname) to me my freshman year and it just kind of stuck,” she said. “I don’t swim club. I only swim summer league and high school, so I’ve never qualified for state or been to a state meet before. I’m really excited, because this will be my first-ever big championship meet.”
Fisher earned 10th-place marks in the 200 medley relay (1:53.17) and the 100 fly (1:01.92). She looks forward to seeing what the Knights — currently ranked third on prepswimco.com — can accomplish with what she estimated to be 17 state qualifiers.
Going the distance
Broomfield’s Myra Wherry was the first to admit that her FRL championship meet didn’t go the way she hoped, but now’s the perfect time to get the slower races out of the way.
And, looking at her Class 4A top-three times in the 200 free, 500 free and 400 free relay, she has nothing to worry about come Thursday. A self-styled marathon swimmer, she knows full well what the long haul of a full season can look like.
“I can actually pace myself in the 500 so if I just go out fast, I can usually keep that speed. And in the 400, I usually just go for it and leave it up to the girls to help go for it too,” Wherry said. “The girls are really a big help. I love the girls on the team. I’m sad some of them are leaving, but they are a lot of help to help me go faster. At practice, they make me laugh, and it just makes me want to keep swimming.”
Saturday, she earned top-five finishes in the 200 free (fifth, 1:56.20), the 500 free (fourth, 5:17.78) and the 400 free relay (fourth, 3:38.15).
Now that she’s gotten her slump out of the way, she’s hoping she can go for gold in the 500 free and 400 free relay next week.
A big-time freshman
Class 4A swimming can be intimidating for any incoming freshman, but Monarch’s Audrey Shambo seems to be taking on the challenge just fine.
Before entering the pool on Saturday, Shambo owned top-three times in both the 100 breast and 200 IM, solidifying herself as one of the top contenders in the events in the classification. Thanks to the support she’s gotten from her older teammates, she’s ready to take on the state meet with higher confidence and better technique, strokes and times.
“I think all of the cheering, whether it’s for you or for someone else, just gets you super pumped and gets you super confident with where you are and what you’re swimming,” Shambo said. “Coming in, I was worried about racing against people much older than me and my confidence level wasn’t very high. But just sticking with my teammates and their confidence levels, especially Mia Prater — she’s one of the captains of our team — she’s super supportive of everyone and everything. I don’t think I would have gotten here without my teammates.”
She won the 100 breast (1:04.71) rather easily on Saturday, while also earning impressive finishes in the 200 medley relay (second, 1:47.88) and the 200 IM (second, 2:07.20).
A change for the better
Boulder senior Zara Zallen had never swum on a high school team before her final year. Still, she’s been able to make a splash in both the school’s history and on the state-wide stage.
She wasted no time claiming three Boulder High records in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:05.34 seconds), the 100-yard freestyle (51.15 seconds) and the 50-yard freestyle (23.56 seconds) and was ranked second in the 100 free before the FRL meet.
On Saturday, she did it again when she beat her own PRs in the 50 free (22.83) and the 100 free (49.48), both times of which would put her at No. 1 in Class 5A based on the most recent rankings. Talk about peaking at the right time.
“I think not being rested, and just getting some good racing in before state has been really good. It’s going to make it difficult for what events I swim next week, but I’m good with my races and proud of that,” Zallen said. “I’ve changed club teams and I’m just a lot happier. I think that’s just been the main difference for me is just swimming happy and competing happy and just enjoying swimming again.”