THORNTON — Fossil Ridge showed a promising performance at the Class 5A boys swimming and diving state preliminaries, placing first in all three relays, qualifying for finals in every event, and capturing a top three seed in six races.
Though the SaberCats only returned one individual champion this year in Danny Kovac, strong swims by junior Richard Dauksher, senior Sam Ybarra and junior Matt Geraghty give potential for a third consecutive state title. Their head coach Mark Morehouse, named NHSCA coach of the year last season, doesn’t hurt their chances, either.
Senior Kovac looks to repeat top in the 100-yard backstroke, a race he has won two years in a row. The Fossil Ridge senior also earned the second seed in the 100-yard fly tonight and will look to land on the podium on Saturday in his second discipline.
Last year's runner-up and 21-time state champion, Regis Jesuit, is right on Fossil's tail, placing second in the 200-yard medley relay, second in the 400-yard freestyle relay, and fifth in the 200-yard free relay. Their most recent championship came in 2014.
Despite these two teams gaining most of the attention heading into finals, two seniors from other schools made headlines tonight and look to claim top spots tomorrow.
Senior Michael Zarian of Fairview won the 200-yard IM and 500-yard freestyle last year (he is two-time champion in the latter). This year, Zarian swapped the 500-free free for the 100-yard butterfly.
“Honestly, I just think it’s a more fun race. This is also my senior year so I wanted to switch it up," he said.
On Friday, Zarian placed first in both races, and competed in the final two relays (200-yard free, 400-yard free) in which his team placed second and fourth, respectively.
“I am excited and fired up to swim in the finals tomorrow. Everybody is," said Zarian, who will swim for Harvard next year. "The goal here is to swim the fastest, of course, and have fun. And that’s what's happening. Tomorrow will be a good day.”
Arapahoe senior Griffin Eiber also placed first in his two races, the 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle.
In his junior season, Eiber won the 100-yard but took silver in the 200-yard after a career best prelim time. This year, his qualifying time is nearly a second and a half faster.
“This year I stepped up my training and my confidence," Eiber said. "But I am also swimming much smarter than last year. Keegan (Bundy) is and I are good friends and we go back and forth. If I swim well, I can win this. If he swims well, he will win.”
Bundy, a Denver South senior, is the third seed heading into tomorrow’s 100-yard free final. Eiber has committed to Indiana University.
The night concluded with two swim-offs. There were three ties in the 50-yard freestyle.
Hinkley junior David Griffith just edged Regis senior Alex Strepman for the eighth spot in tomorrow's final. In the 100-yard, Lewis-Palmer junior Breck Donahue came from behind the claim the 16th and final spot.
The sole diving event will kick off at 9:30 am Saturday at Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center. The field of 47 will compete in the 1-meter preliminaries, cutting the field to 16 finalists who will compete during the swim events later that day.
Bear Creek’s Octavia Lucero is the competitor to beat, now that Regis grad Kyle Goodwin has graduated.
Swim finals begin Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Pool doors open at 12:30 p.m.