Rampart sends Burch out of invitational on a high note

January 11, 2014 Updated: January 11, 2014 at 10:00 pm

PUEBLO - Pat Burch won't get another chance to coach a Rampart girls' swimming team at the Hornet Invite.

Soon to enter retirement after 13 years at Rampart, he got quite the sendoff Saturday at Pueblo County High School.

Although his Rams finished second Saturday in the team competition to Cheyenne Mountain, Burch watched his 200-freestyle relay team set the pool record, then witnessed junior Julie Henninger break a school record in the 100 backstroke.

His day ended in style when Henninger touched first to give Rampart a victory in the 400-free relay.

"It's a great way to go out," Burch said. "We've been coming to this meet since before I started coaching here. The pool is quirky and fast, and the kids dug deep, and I'm very proud of them."

The Rams' 200-free relay team of Allison Popelar, Lindsey Horning, Olivia Parvin and Henninger recorded a time of 1 minute, 40.39 seconds. The mark became even more special to Burch because it broke a previous Rampart mark (1:40.47) set a handful of years ago by a team that included Jenna Gregoire, the 2009 5A state champion in the 100 freestyle.

"That was one of the older records," Burch said. "We came down here many a time without anyone in the finals, and it's taken a while to build. We don't have any seniors, and I told the girls that this points to a new beginning. They've worked hard to keep the tradition of that group going, but it's time to get new names up there."

Earlier in the day, another of Gregoire's marks went down, courtesy of Manitou Springs' Veronica Morin. The sophomore won the 50 freestyle in 23.93 seconds, shattering the previous mark of 24.26.

Palmer junior Isabella Farrell claimed the diving title, keeping the crown at the downtown Colorado Springs high school after recent graduate Taylor Walsh had taken the top step on the podium at the previous two Hornet Invites.

Morin also won the 100 freestyle, one of three swimmers who claimed individual titles in two events.

The other two helped Cheyenne Mountain win its fifth straight team title, as junior Rhyann Lowrey took first in the 200 and 500 free races, while senior Sydney Buckley, the two-time 4A state champion in the 100 butterfly, won that race along with the 100 breaststroke.

Buckley, like Burch, finished out her career in style at the Hornet.

"This is the pool where I discovered I could swim the butterfly," Buckley said. "I wouldn't be here today without that race. When I was a sophomore, I cut four seconds off my previous best. Before that, I wasn't planning on swimming the fly at state. That's when it started, and I'll miss not coming back here."

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