MONTROSE – The Montrose High School girls’ swim team is gearing up for its final two challenges – districts on Feb. 3-4 and the state championships on Feb. 10-11 – where they hope to bring back a repeat title and medals.
Eight swimmers and one diver have made the state cut this season and will compete at the Class 4A State Championships at the Veteran's Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton.
On Feb. 3 and 4, the team takes on regional competition at Colorado State University in Grand Junction for a chance repeat their district title from last year.
“We hope to make a good showing and the possibility of winning is good,” coach Ellen Erickson said. “We hope to repeat as champions.”
And for some swimmers, districts will be a last chance to make it to the state meet.
Already in the state lineup are seniors Amanda Winslow, who qualified in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, and Rashyll Leonard, who qualified in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard freestyle events. Juniors Alyssa Aargon (100-yard backstroke), Brooke Gaber (100-yard breaststroke), Logan Morris (200-yard IM, 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard breaststroke) and Lorissa Grammer (diving), along with sophomores Allison Foulk (100-yard butterfly) and Christine Hurford (200- and 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke), and freshman Mara Gabriel (100-yard backstroke) also qualified for state events.
No matter how many events they qualify in, participants can only compete in two individual and two relay events or one individual and three relay events at the state meet.
The Montrose Lady Indians team, which consists of 17 swimmers and nine divers, is under the new direction of Erickson.
But Erickson is not new to the sport – or to the girls on the team. She has assisted the past few years with the high school team and taught many of the girls when they were coming up through the Montrose Marlins swim program.
“It's made the transition easier,” she said.
Overall, the team has done well among its Western Slope competitors, placing first at most meets, Erickson said. Many of the area's teams are going through their own transitions and rebuilding, so competition hasn't been as strong as in years past, she said.
Durango and some Aspen swimmers do pose challenges for the girls, she said. But Erickson said Montrose has strength in its breaststroke events with Morris, Gaber, Aargon and Foulk and in its backstroke events with Leonard and Gabriel, as well as with diver Grammer. She also expects the team to have a good showing in its relays, but realizes other teams will show up with their strongest relay teams as well, she said.
“There is good competition in the backstroke, as well as the butterfly,” Erickson said.
The district preliminaries start at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3 for swimmers. Diving preliminaries start at 9:30 a.m. and the finals for all events start at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4. Only the top 16 placers go onto the finals. But it's still a team effort as every swimmer can earn points for their team by placing in the top 12.
“At districts, our main goal is to win again,” Gaber said.
But all the state qualifiers have slightly different goals for the upcoming state tournament.
“Personally, I want to set a best time in the 100-yard breaststroke,” said Gaber, who made it to state last year in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley.
For return state champion Morris, who got first place in the 100-yard breaststroke last year, she's looking for another title.
“I definitely want to defend my title, but it is nerve-racking,” she said.
As a team, Gaber said she is looking forward to bonding and encouraging one another at the meet.
“I think toward the end of the season, we've been jelling more as a team,” coach Erickson said. “And there is that team component as everyone earns points.”