At the outset, Manitou Springs coach Roy Chaney thought his girls would be a little rusty in their first meet of the season after artic temperatures canceled three practices last week.
The Mustangs, however, polished off eight state-qualifying times and sizzled through the pool in their 113-67 dual win over Mesa Ridge on Tuesday. It was so good in fact, Chaney hinted afterward that this girls' swim team could be the best in school history.
"We have so many good swimmers, and that's not only in our top girls," said Chaney, in his sixth year coaching the Mustangs. "We have 32 girls and a lot of talent in there. I think this very well could be the best team in school history. I would have to look way back, but I think it really could be."
They'll probably only get better, too. Sophomores Samantha White and Veronica Morin and freshmen Kethrys Buffa and Emily Dolloff-Holt broke school records in the 200 medley relay (1 minute, 57 seconds) and 400 freestyle relay (3:50.36) as youthful Manitou Springs enjoyed wins in 10 of the 12 events at Widefield Community Center.
"There were some nerves coming in, especially for us freshmen," said Buffa about her first high school meet. "But once you hear all the support coming from your teammates, you relax and you just want to do good for them. . I think we all did our part today."
Girls like Buffa - a junior Olympic and Western Zone qualifier - often join bigger schools around the area.
Chaney, on the contrary, assures that the newfound talent can last despite being a school of about 500 students. He said the success is due to pushing younger swimmers around the area to begin year-round swimming well before they get to high school.
"You need girls who have been swimming year-round for quite a few years to be competitive at this level, and you need quite a few of them," said Chaney, who is also a club coach for the Colorado Torpedoes. "For us being a 3A school competing in 4A, it's tough to try to go against your Cheyenne Mountains, but I'm excited at what we have here."
And why not? With state-qualifying times White also won the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke; Morin won the 50 and 100 free; Buffa won the 100 backstroke; and Dolloff-Holt won the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.
And despite being underclassmen, all four girls have been swimming for at least eight years. It's the kind of talent and experience that Grizzlies coach Melissa Knutson is missing from her team - she only has one year-round swimmer.
"We have Carmen, that's it," said Knutson, alluding to junior Carmen Mena who won the 500 free and led the Grizzlies to the win in the 200 freestyle relay in the team's only two wins of the night. "Right now, we are kind of an under-the-carpet program. We are hoping to grab younger girls with what Carmen is doing for us; say, 'Look at the success you can have if you put the work in. Look at Carmen.'
"We would love to start getting the talent Manitou obviously has."
The Mustangs are hoping for a top-10 finish at state.
"Coach Roy really believes in us and I think we are starting to realize the potential we have," White said. "We have some pretty big goals for a pretty small school."