THORNTON - A Missy Franklin record is all that separated Lewis-Palmer senior Meredith Rees and a perfect individual showing Saturday at the Class 5A state swimming and diving championships at Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center.
In Saturday’s opening event, Rees handled the first leg of the 200 medley relay. The Rangers placed seventh and broke a program record with a time of 1 minute, 46.75 seconds. It was barely faster than the previous mark, and the celebration was delayed as the Lewis-Palmer coaches confirmed.
“We knew they had a chance at breaking the record, but none of us could actually remember the tenths on the record,” said first-year coach Laura Day.
“We were all calling people we knew had access to our records.”
“We were all really excited to break that one,” Rees added. “As a team, we stuck together and helped each other do our best.”
Rees then took to the individual races, starting with a win in the 50 freestyle, her first state championship.
“I’ve gotten so close to winning the past three years,” Rees said.
“I just really wanted to win something.”
Her 23.16 was half a second faster than her prelims time and came as something of a surprise to her after entering with the second-fastest time.
“It’s like one mistake and you’re done,” Rees said.
“I was not expecting to win that at all.”
It was no shock to Alan Arata, who coached Rees the previous three years.
“I was expecting it,” said Arata, walking past.
Up next for Rees was the 100 backstroke, a race most expected the University of Missouri signee to take. She again entered with the second-best time in prelims after Fossil Ridge freshman Renee Gillilan put up a 54.65 on Friday.
Rees got the better of her club teammate on Saturday, winning by five hundredths of a second in 53.71.
“That 100 back wasn’t a surprise. It wasn’t a miracle,” Day said. “The underwaters that won it for her, she has been doing those painful things day in, day out.”
With a 52.9 personal best, Rees had hopes of challenging the 52.3 set by Olympic Champion Miss Franklin in 2011.
“It was in the back of my head, but as it got closer, I was like ‘Uhhhh, I don’t think I’m ready,’” Rees admitted.
She closed her day by swimming the fourth leg of the 400 freestyle relay, which placed 13th after failing to qualify for the championship heat on Friday.
“Yesterday was a little bit rough,” Day said.
Fairview won the team title with 495.5 points. Fossil Ridge was second at 378. The Rangers finished 10th thanks in large part to Rees.
“Day in, day out, she does the right things,” Day said.
Seniors Ashlyn Foster and Anna Kemper helped the Rangers score, placing sixth and eighth, respectively, in diving.
While Rees didn’t get her record Saturday, she still has chances with her club team before heading to college, and two golds from her final race representing the Rangers was enough reason to smile.
“I went into today with a farfetched goal of breaking the state record in the 100 back, because I’m really close to it,” Rees said.
“It didn’t happen, and I’m OK with that.”