January 12, 2012 Updated: July 3, 2013 at 9:34 am
For girls high school swimmers who haven’t made their state cuts yet, this might be the perfect weekend to do so.
Two words: Hornet Invite.
“It’s hard to understand, but we have a fast pool, and everyone looks forward to qualifying for state there,” longtime Pueblo County swimming coach Dan Radiff said. “When they were building the pool, I love the fact that they didn’t know what they were doing. What we got is essentially a collegiate pool, a deep pool and simply a fast pool.”
For the 26th time, the region’s top swimmers and divers will converge on Pueblo County High School’s natatorium for one of the rare two-day events. The Hornet Invite starts with preliminaries at 4 p.m. today and finals at 4 p.m. Saturday. The 51-diver field competes at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Cheyenne Mountain defended its team title last year and later finished fourth at the 4A state meet. Indians coach Kate Doane definitely believes the Hornet Invite title launched her team through the rest of the season.
“I think each year, we’ve had great success down there, and the enthusiasm carried over,” said Doane, whose team has won all four of its dual meets and finished second to 5A Lewis-Palmer at the Cheyenne Mountain Invite. “Everyone loves to go to a lower altitude and swim fast, and the level of excitement from all the teams helps to create an environment where the girls have achieved best times and state times.”
Indians hold the top-seeded times in seven of the 11 swimming events, including all three relays along with sophomore Emily Bauer (200 freestyle), sophomore Sydney Buckley (50 freestyle), senior Kylee Kimball (100 free) and junior Katie Roach (100 breaststroke).
Coronado junior Allie Jacobs recorded top times in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle, Doherty junior Sarah James enters the event as the top seed in the 100 backstroke, while Rampart junior Carli Snyder is the area’s top entrant in the 100 butterfly with the season’s third-fastest time.
Pine Creek coach Steve Owsley makes it a point to spend two mid-January days in Pueblo. It wasn’t always that way.
“I had heard so much about the Hornet, I was so surprised they didn’t go down there when I started at Pine Creek,” said Owsley, in his seventh season as Eagles coach after coaching and teaching in Missouri. “Our girls love to go down to this event. This gets them out of the stale routine of duals, and they are really excited about the competition.”
Speaking of competition, the Pueblo pool contains just six lanes, as opposed to eight at most places, meaning fewer swimmers will qualify for Saturday’s consolation and finals events.
“It’s very selective in those six lanes,” Radiff said. “People want to be in that company. I’ve seen them get out and break records in preliminaries. It’s going to be good to watch, and we make it a good show. Everyone comes out to music, and either myself or someone else will walk out with the finalists in a tuxedo. Everyone looks forward to this, and it seems to pump everyone up.”