Fossil Ridge successfully defends its championship in 5A boys swimming

(Tracy Renck/

(Tracy Renck/

COLORADO SPRINGS – Before 2015, Fossil Ridge had never won a boys swim and dive state team championship.

The Sabercats now have two in a row.

Thanks to wins by Danny Kovac in the 100-yard backstroke and its 200-yard freestyle relay, Fossil Ridge won its latest title Saturday at the at the Class 5A swim and dive state championships at the Air Force Academy.

The Sabercats finished with 331.50 points to top Regis Jesuit (252 points). Defeating Regis is no easy task. The Raiders have won 20 state championships, and four in a row from 2011-14. All of Regis’ state crowns have come since 1992.

“That was our goal from the start of this season to win state again,” Fossil Ridge coach Mark Morehouse said. “It’s pretty awesome to set a goal and reach it. All these guys are unbelievable and this is just great.”

Fossil Ridge’s charge was all about depth as it had 15 swimmers competing in the championship finals and seven in the consolation finals.

“We talk about that all the time, you don’t win titles by winning events, you win by having a lot of people scoring and a lot of people making the finals,” Morehouse said. “We also talk about that all the time that you win championships in prelims and we had the best possible day we could (Friday). We had kids who have never scored a point in this meet who made two finals. Depth is what does it.”

Kovac, a sophomore, won the backstroke (49.69) for the second-consecutive year. The Sabercats 200 freestyle relay team won with a time of 1:24.55.

“This feels great,” Kovac said. “This is exactly what we set out to do and we wouldn’t have been able to win state without our entire team doing its job. It’s just really cool that we accomplished what we set out to do.”

The start of the meet was delayed an hour – to 3 p.m. – because of issues with the scoreboard in regards to scoring for diving, but it didn’t dampen the joy on the faces of the state champs.

Like the face of double state winner Michael Zarian of Fairview.

The junior captured state glory in the 200 IM (1:49.72) and the 500 freestyle (4:34.45). Zarian also won the 500 free as a sophomore.

“It is a great honor,” said Zarian following his inaugural 200 IM state crown. “I’ve had great coaching and to win two state championships really means a lot.”

Boulder’s Chris Nicholson (1:37.85) won the 200-yard freestyle, and Ponderosa’s Max Grogan was the 50-freestyle (21.04) winner.

Winning a sprint event was the last thing Grogan, a senior, envisioned for himself when he entered high school.

“This is a great feeling,” said the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Grogan, whose previous best state finish was third in the 50 free last year. “I have been training for a year now for the 50. I went through some trouble in the 200 and 500 when I was a sophomore and I got switched to a sprinter and it paid off. I have a breathing problem called vocal cord dysfunction (abnormal closing of the vocal cords when you breathe in or out). I was really good at distance when I was a freshman, but this disorder kind of caught on, so that’s why now I’m a sprinter. Less yards and more sprinting.”

Diver Octavio Lucero of Bear Creek (604.65 points) won state and Arapahoe High School’s Griffin Eiber was tops in the100 free (45.07). Eiber just edged Boulder’s Nicholson (45.12). Sasia Gabriele was the 100 butterfly (49.32) winner and Elijah Warren of Regis snared the 100 backstroke championship with a 54.82 second time.

“This feels really rewarding,” said Eiber, who was a runner-up to Nicholson in the 200 fee. “All my hard work paid off. I know Chris and he’s become really good in the 200 and I just went for it in the 100 free against him. We both had really good swims and I was pleased with my result.”