PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Freshmen usually spend their first year taking in the action from the sidelines, learning the system and patiently waiting for their chance.
Not 15-year-old Ryan Arata, who just finished a rookie season most anyone in high school would envy.
The freshman Lewis-Palmer swimmer earned Class 4A state titles in both the 100-yard backstroke (51.92 seconds) and butterfly (50.82) and was a member of the state-champion 200 medley relay (1:36.38), setting school records in all three along the way. For his success, Arata earned honors as The Gazette's Boys' Swimmer of the Year.
When the year started, did you have any idea you'd have this type of season?
No, I didn't. I generally don't write down goals but try to go for lot of personal bests and cut as much time off as I can during the year. I had some of my best times at the North Jeffco Meet (club meet swimming for the Falfins in November) and made slow progress until the start of the high school season in March. I didn't get any of my best times until state, then I cut a lot of times there.
What do you remember most about your first experience at state?
Winning the overall title was pretty big, and after we were announced the champions, there was a giant cheer and everyone jumped in the pool.
Wasn't there one person who didn't simply jump in the pool?
Yeah, my dad (Alan) is the coach, and he did a back flip off the blocks.
Having your dad as the coach has its advantages and disadvantages, doesn't it?
Yeah, both. On the plus side, I know a lot of the things he'll do in practice. I can find out what workout he will do before we do it. On the other side, I always have to make sure I'm going as hard as I can. I have to be an example all the time.
How long have you been swimming?
I started competing when I was 5, but I learned to swim at the age of 2.
Do you participate in any other sports?
I used to play soccer from when I was 5 until 10, then was in the band and football in middle school. Swimming was most important to me, and it wasn't a hard decision to drop everything else to only focus on swimming before I got to high school.
How do you spend your time when you're not in the pool?
Our whole family (that also includes his senior-to-be brother, Bryce, and his mother, Kim) snowboards and plays disc golf. I also read a lot and am a big fan of pretty much any non-historical fiction type of book. I've read a few books by Ted Dekker and I'm a big fan of his.
How do you balance your extracurriculars with schoolwork?
It's hard getting back into the school atmosphere, especially after the summer break. Sometimes I think it's all about swimming, but I have to find a balance. I enjoy school, too, and was able to get into advanced classes with sophomores, juniors and seniors this year. I took programming, chemistry and pre-calculus and got A's in all of them.
What do you have in mind for an encore as a sophomore?
I want to see if I can get four state titles instead of three. We had a relay team (400 freestyle) that got disqualified in prelims.
Where do you want swimming to take you?
I'd like to swim in college, but my immediate goal is the Olympics, if not in 2012 after I graduate, the one after in 2016.
I'm not sure about qualifications and all that stuff, but I'm ready to go out and do it.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Pete Nichols takes a great amount of pride in the record board and three state championship banners that are on display at Cheyenne Mountain. However, the statistics and records tell only part of the story.
Instead, it's more about how those top times and achievements were accomplished.
"What I always focus on the most was what work ethic means and conducting yourself with class," said Nichols, who last month retired from coaching after spending 22 years at Cheyenne Mountain, highlighted by state titles in 2000-02. "That's what I'm most proud of. Everything I've done I owe to Cheyenne Mountain High School. But coaching was really draining me emotionally and physically, to a point where it wasn't healthy anymore. I'm 52 and I get a chance at a second life."
The Gazette's Boys' Swimming Coach of the Year, who plans on teaching part time at Cheyenne Mountain for the next few years while transitioning into full-time retirement, certainly fulfills the requirements to lead a class.
Nichols, a Harrison graduate, earned a master's degree in neurochemistry from the Colorado Health Sciences Center and later a doctorate in biogeography from Mississippi.
After all that schooling, Nichols didn't immediately find his place in the world.
"I did scientific research and hated it," Nichols said.
"You realize that if you're more people oriented, teaching is a better fit. And I wanted to come back, and it was a good choice. Those little decisions I made years ago really shaped my life."
Nichols leaves a predominantly young team that finished third at the Class 4A state meet.
"We lose a core group of divers, but we had young kids, and had real-life lessons this year about working hard," Nichols said.
"It was so nice to see the kids absorb those lessons."
Made his 4A state debut by winning titles in the 100-yard butterfly, 100 backstroke and as part of 200 medley relay.
Metro League champion in 100 breaststroke and 200 medley relay.
Metro League 100 backstroke champion and swam lead leg of 4A state champion 200 medley relay.
Runner-up in 100 freestyle at Class 4A state meet; also had two other top-five finishes at state.
Recorded two top-10 finishes at Class 5A state meet.
Swam lead leg on 4A statechampion 200 freestyle relay; also had two top-five finishes at state.
Sr., Pine Creek
Two-event Metro League champ; two top-five finishes at 5A state meet.
Jr., Cheyenne Mountain
Recorded pair of top-10 finishes at state 4A meet.
Jr., Cheyenne Mountain
State 4A champ in 500 freestyle and runner-up in 200 freestyle.
Sr., Cheyenne Mountain
Metro League diving champion finished fourth at state 4A meet.
Erik Baer, Jr., Cheyenne Mountain
Daniel Bradford, Jr., Liberty
Ryan Chaney, Jr., Coronado
Ian Clarke, Fr., Rampart
Matthew Day, Jr., Lewis-Palmer
Logan Dean, Jr., Lewis-Palmer
Jonathan Eng, Jr., Coronado
Spencer Flores, So., Lewis-Palmer
Marshall McCann, So., Cheyenne Mountain
Jonathan Munns, Sr., Lewis-Palmer
Michael Carricato, sophomore, Air Academy; Aaryn Coker, senior, Air Academy; Ryan Gimarc, senior, Air Academy; Daniel Rothlis, senior, Air Academy; Jonathan Littles, freshman, Cheyenne Mountain; Andy Yoo, sophomore, Cheyenne Mountain; Jonathan Eng, junior, Coronado; Taylor Stewart-Theifoldt, senior, Doherty; Tyson Anderson, senior, Harrison; Jason Mechling, senior, Harrison; Christopher Guthrie, junior, Harrison; Allen Lowry, senior, Harrison; Bryce Arata, junior, Lewis-Palmer; Brian Bane, junior, Lewis-Palmer; Philip Gifford, sophomore, Lewis-Palmer; Heath Glover, senior, Lewis-Palmer; Kevin Newby, junior, Lewis-Palmer; Doug Russell, sophomore, Lewis-Palmer; Spencer Wells, sophomore, Lewis-Palmer; Josh Johnson junior, Mitchell; Sean Andersson, senior, Palmer; David Bossert, junior, Pine Creek; Jim Bossert, sophomore, Pine Creek; Forrest Gaskill, sophomore, Pine Creek; Luke Greer, sophomore, Pine Creek; Justin Holmes, sophomore, Pine Creek; Tyler Knab, senior, Rampart; Chris Schuch, senior, Rampart; Austin Smith, sophomore, Rampart; Kegan Miller, junior, Wasson; Mark Clagett, junior, Wasson; Dave Baker, senior, Mitchell.