THORNTON — Another year, another controversy for the Discovery Canyon boys' swimming and diving team.
Two Thunder swimmers were disqualified from their respective individual events after they took an illegal swim in the pool, ultimately costing the Thunder the Class 4A state championship Saturday night. A Colorado High School Activities Association official said the dip went against the guidelines of organization's official rule book.
Discovery Canyon kicked off the state meet at the Veterans Aquatics Memorial Center in style, winning the 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute, 33.62 seconds. But CHSAA assistant commissioner Bethany Brookens said two of the Thunder's swimmers — senior Braden Whitmarsh and junior Tommy Rauchut — went back into the pool without permission and were disqualified from their next races.
"When all competitors in that event have completed a race and a competitor in that event enters/re-enters the water without the referee's approval," the rule states, "that competitor shall be disqualified from his/her next schedule event."
In the end, Greeley West celebrated a state team title while Discovery Canyon settled for another runner-up trophy.
Final scores: Greeley West 323, Discovery Canyon 307.
Cheyenne Mountain (161), Air Academy (140) and Pine Creek (132) finished eighth, 11th and 12th, respectively.
This wasn't the first time the Thunder experienced a controversial end to their season.
Last year, a Discovery Canyon swimmer wore a swimsuit with a logo that violated a national rule, prompting CHSAA to disqualify the Thunder's 400 freestyle relay team. They were in the team lead before the final event and had a preliminary time fast enough to earn enough points for the state title.
On Saturday, Whitmarsh and Rauchut were disqualified from 200 and 50 freestyle events, respectively. They were both seeded in the top eight and were projected to score at least 30 points for their team.
Still, the Thunder had reasons to celebrate.
Freshman Quintin McCarty led the way. He placed first in the 50 freestyle in 20.90 seconds, followed by a runner-up showing in the 100 backstroke with a time of 50.7.
Rauchut bounced back with a third-place finish in the 100 butterfly (51.36), while Whitmarsh did the same with a runner-up performance in the 500 freestyle (4:45.31).
The Thunder wrapped up their day by taking first in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:08.64.
As the trophies were handed out, the Discovery Canyon swimmers appeared dejected. Through it all, a Thunder assistant shouted "the fastest team in the state!"
"It wasn't our fault," McCarty said, referring to the penalties. "We didn't know the rules. I just think it's unfortunate for us as a team. Two years in a row, we didn't get what we quite wanted, what we trained for. But you know what? We're going to take it and be humble about it."
Thunder coach Dave Burgess spoke with The Gazette on Sunday.
"The rule is in black and white and for whatever reason the guys decided to jump in after the event was over, and did not have permission to do so, so the rule was upheld," he said.
“They jumped back into the water to cool down because that’s what they were accustomed to doing throughout the season,” Burgess told The Gazette on Monday. “That’s how it worked at the conference meets, so why wouldn’t they? At the end of the day it’s on me to let them know that they needed to get approval at the state meet.”
Two other local swimmers stood out.
In the 100 breaststroke, Pine Creek's Joshua-Ryan Lujan finished first in 56.99 ¯ followed by Cheyenne Mountain's Gabe Grauvogel, who took second in 58.07.
Other highlights include Air Academy's Jack Elbert taking second in diving with 458.2 points, behind Denver South's Jack Ryan, who set a 4A record with 571.55.