THORNTON - Sydney Dolloff-Holt, the younger one, realized the inevitable on Friday: the next day would be the final time she swam competitively with her sister.
"Honestly, I'm having a really hard time with it," Sydney said. "I'm not ready yet."
It didn't hit Emily, the older one, until Saturday, the morning of the Class 3A girls swimming state championships finals at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center. This was it. Not for the Manitou Springs senior in a pool - Emily is off to the University of New Hampshire on a swimming scholarship - but for something they consider more valuable.
"Swimming together is all we've ever known," Emily said.
So it makes sense that Manitou Springs coach Roy Chaney snapped another photo of the sisters - Emily, a 5-foot-4 senior, and Sydney, a 5-foot-10 sophomore - just before they embraced prior to their final race together, the 100-yard breaststroke.
Even the folks lined up and down the pool noticed something was different between the two competitors. In the finals at state, they raced with, not against, each other - just as they've done since Sydney was 5 and Emily was 6, almost 11 years ago. When swimming together is all they've known, teary emotions are more than a possibility. They're expected.
"Sisterly love," Chaney explained.
Oh, their final go-round on the state's biggest stage had ramifications on the scoreboard. Swimming five lanes apart in the final of the 200 IM, the sisters finished back-to-back, of course, with Emily in fourth place (2:08.80) and Sydney in fifth (2:15.21).
But in 20 years over a glass of wine are they really going to care where they placed?
What mattered Saturday was that they swam and finished together. The biggest part of their young lives has been swimming, and the biggest person has been the other one. It figures, too, that there would be adversity leading into their final splash in the pool.
Emily - she's the older one - seemingly was struck with the 10 plagues of Egypt. There was a shoulder injury, followed by thumb surgery, followed by an allergic reaction to chlorine. (A swimmer who's allergic to chlorine? "I know, it's terrible," Emily said.) The thumb surgery was in November and left Emily with only about six weeks in the pool prior to the state meet.
"My sister is the strongest, most determined and motivated person I know," Sydney said. "I knew if anyone would fight back and be ready to be here it would be her."
The allergic reaction left Emily "looking like a tiger or something," in her words, with swollen tear ducts. Still, her tear ducts worked just fine after their final race.
With - not against - each other.
"I really hope to be as good as my sister is someday," Sydney said.
She's the younger one, and she wasn't talking only about swimming.