THORNTON — What fun is a full day of swimming competition if it can't come down to the last event?
Longmont and Pueblo County will never know. They battled back and forth all afternoon at the VMAC in Thornton, with each hoping to walk away with the Class 3A girls swimming championship.
After Amanda Blickensderfer held off Manitou Springs' Sydney Dolloff-Holt in the 100-yard breaststroke, the Hornets took a six-point lead into the final event, the 400-freestyle relay.
But a missed wall in the consolation final curbed County's hopes. Despite a second-place finish in the championship race, Longmont came away with 203 total points, good enough to stand atop the podium when the final results came in.
"It's so exciting," sophomore Lucille Matheson said. "Especially because last year we didn't perform as well as we thought we could."
Matheson got the ball rolling for the Trojans, claiming the 200-individual medley in two minutes, 8.86 seconds.
That race helped Longmont bounce back from what a disappointing day in perlims. In the blink of an eye, the Trojans went from probable contenders to fighters.
"It was a mixed blessing," coach Kelly Shipley said. "We needed to get knocked down a peg or two."
It was clear that they came into Friday knowing that every point and every race mattered. Matheson helped again with a second-place finish in the 500-freestyle, finishing in 5:05.98.
Freshman Emma Svendsen took fourth in the 100-backstroke (59.54), but it was after the 200-freestyle relay that the Hornets overtook the Trojans in total points.
The saving grace for Longmont was that Pueblo County was swimming in the consolation final in the 400-freestyle relay. The Trojans had a shot, and were expected, to win the event. Pueblo County freshman Rachel Paolucci missed a turn and County finished fifth in the consolation race.
St. Mary's Academy ended up winning the event, but the unexpected finish for County helped Longmont secure its first state swimming title.
"They knew (they had to swim well in the 400)," Shipley said. "We don't look at points. I think we had a bigger spread than they were aware of, which was good."
County was another team in search of its first title, but that piece of history will have to wait another year.
"They're devastated," County coach Dan Radiff said.
But there is hope for his team. He doesn't lose a single swimmer from this year's squad and will easily enter next year as a favorite to secure the title that eluded them by the slimmest of margins this year.
He just hopes that his girls can draw on the experience of this year to push them forward next season.
"You don't learn lessons from wins," he said. "You learn lessons from losses."
Blickensderfer, a junior at County, excelled for her team this year, claiming wins in the 100-breaststroke, 100-butterfly and in bother the 200-medley and 200-freestyle relays.
The Hornets didn't come away with the championship, but she could not have been prouder of how her team performed over the two days at state.
"Victory is not found in the idea of a trophy," she said. "It's found in the idea of coming together and being a family. And knowing what we did today, the history that we made, we came together."