THORNTON - After 76 races in 11 swimming events kicked off competition at the 5A state girls' swimming championships Friday, most everyone clamored for the exits of Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center for some down time.
Two relay teams, however, kept their game faces on. There was still business to be settled in the pool.
With times measured to the hundredth of a second, ties still happen, but are fairly rare. Smoky Hill and Rampart didn't only tie in the 200-yard medley relay, they shared the 16th best effort. But since the top 16 times - not 17 - in all events return for Saturday's finals, an extra race, the day's 77th, would determine the final entry while sending another team home.
"In 12 years as coach here, I've never been involved in a swimoff," longtime Rams coach Pat Burch said.
After a 25-minute break following the end of preliminaries, the teams lined up to break the tie in front of a smattering of fans who stuck around. They witnessed a nail-biting homestretch, in which Rampart junior Olivia Parvin made the final touch .02 seconds before her counterpart.
By that margin, the Rams foursome of Julie Henninger, Jessica Chen, Riley Koldenhoven and Parvin get to return Saturday to swim in the consolation final and give their team a chance to score points. Smoky Hill won't.
"It was really stressful," said Parvin, a junior who had earlier qualified for Saturday's championship finals in the 200 freestyle relay. "If you go too slow, you lost the race. It went so quickly that I wasn't really thinking about it. I was just trying to touch really quickly. It still hasn't sunk in yet that we're coming back."
Henninger knows a little about close finishes. Earlier in the night, the Rampart junior finished eighth overall in the 100-yard freestyle, a miniscule .01 seconds faster than her nearest competitor, good for her first championship finals berth, the only one among 5A area individual swimmers.
"A hundredth of a second is everything, from taking a breath wrong, making a kick wrong or putting your hand in wrong," Henninger said. "It reminded me of Michael Phelps at the 2012 Olympics in Beijing. He won by that margin, and I know the importance of keeping your head down and reaching for the wall. I worked on finishing all week, and it paid off here."