Much swimming remains between Tuesday’s dual between Cheyenne Mountain and Discovery Canyon and the 4A state meet in Thornton in about two months. But both the Indians and Thunder, who finished third and ninth, respectively, at state last season and have bigger hopes on their minds, found plenty to carry forward after this early season showdown.
“We were really pumped for this meet,” said Thunder senior Sarah Oldach, who won the 50 freestyle and swam the breaststroke leg on the winning 200 medley relay squad. “They’re a tough team, and I knew we weren’t coming into it vying for first place against a team like Cheyenne Mountain. A meet like this is beneficial in many ways.”
The Indians won the meet 181-131 at the Cheyenne Mountain Aquatic Center, fueled by individual victories by Sydney Buckley in the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, though not the 100 butterfly, which she won at last season’s state meet.
For most of the day, Buckley’s mind focused around classwork, the thoughts of pending final exams sending chills through her body. After school, however, the junior found solace in swimming.
“I couldn’t get through school without swimming,” Buckley said. “Swimming is my calm time. I have to take everything I’ve done in the day and put it out of my mind, and it’s great for me to be able to do what I love.”
Overall, Cheyenne Mountain claimed victory in eight of the 12 events. The Thunder drew first blood by rallying to win the 200 medley relay to start the day. Discovery Canyon senior Kelsey Oettinger tracked down Kathryn Benson on the final straightaway, touching first by 0.19 seconds.
“Our coach really wanted to give us an excited atmosphere in the first event,” Oldach said. “So we put our best medley relay team out there to give us a good start. That win really gave the girls good racing energy for the rest of the meet.”
In addition to Oldach's 50 free win, the Thunder gobbled up 22 of 25 points in diving, highlighted by state-qualifying marks from Kaydee Valliere (226.60) and Emma Plentl (200.55). Junior Emily Hand later won the 100 backstroke for the Thunder.
Katie Roach gave Cheyenne Mountain its first victory in the 200 free, which was followed by a 6-second victory by sophomore Alden Lovaas in the 200 individual medley. Lexi de la Cruz (100 butterfly) and Morgan Wice (500 free) accounted for the Indians’ other individual triumphs, while the 200 and 400 relays also belonged to Cheyenne Mountain.
“We’re looking at the end of the season, but this was great early season competition,” Indians coach Kate Doane said. “It was fun to see the girls get behind each other. Both teams brought their ‘A’ game, and a lot of the girls on both sides picked up a few state cuts because of the competition.”
Buckley, a part of teams that have finished fourth and third in the final state standings in her first two years, notices something special about this year’s version of Indians, even though it’s only December.
“We’re swimming so fast; we’ve never swam that fast since I’ve been here,” Buckley said. “I thought my freshman year was that one year to win state. But this year, I think we have a really good chance if everyone keeps it up. We have a solid team, and I’m proud of that.”