Friesen shines as 4A girls state swim makes return to EPIC

(Quentin Sickafoose/CHSAANow.com)

FORT COLLINS — The state championship atmosphere inside Edora Pool Ice Center resurfaces special emotions for senior swimmers like Morgan Friesen.

For the past two seasons, the Windsor standout and her fellow Class 4A state qualifiers have instead been showcasing their talents at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton. That left only a small group who also shared that freshman-year experience entering Friday’s prelims as this year’s championship meet returned to EPIC.

“Just being back here, in this place, brings back a lot of memories of being a freshman and making it to state for the first time and everything else that went with it,” Friesen said. “It’s not about just how much I’ve grown individually, but also as a program. It’s crazy to think how fast it’s all gone by.”

Three years ago, Friesen nervously went into her first state meet hoping for the best. On Saturday, she’ll have a shot at wrapping up her career with six individual state titles.

She finished first in the prelims of both the 200 IM (2:06.18) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.27) Friday, the first of which would lead to a repeat and the latter a career-sweeping four-peat if she wins those events in Saturday’s finals.

In the race for the team title, Cheyenne Mountain appears to be an early frontrunner after finishing third in 2016. The Indians qualified 20 individuals for Saturday’s finals, as well as all three of their relay teams.

Junior Cat Wright leads Cheyenne Mountain with the No. 1 spot in the 100 butterfly (56.11) and was third in the prelims of the 50 free (24.62). The Indians also received help from their younger swimmers as freshmen Harper Lehman, Clare Sanderson and Frances Hayward all qualified for the championship heat of their individual events.

“Just getting to be here and play a part with a team as great as this is something special,” said Lehman, who finished third in the 100 backstroke (57.45), sixth in the 200 IM (2:10.17) and was the opening leg of the top-finishing 200 medley relay team (1:45.29).

“I knew I would be nervous, but this experience is unlike anything else. I had to keep asking my older teammates to say things to help calm me down.”

Those feelings not only stick around, but are to be cherished, according to veterans like Friesen.

“If I had to give any advice to the younger swimmers out here, it would be to make the most of it all,” Friesen said. “Being here representing your school is something that will always be special.”

Diving prelims for the 4A state meet will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Finals will begin in the afternoon at 2:30 p.m.