THORNTON — On Friday night, 315 athletes competed for a spot in the Class 5A swimming and diving finals. All eyes were on last season's team champion, Fossil Ridge, and the runner-up, Regis Jesuit.
Fossil Ridge, which is a three-time defending champion, is looking to continue its dominance while Regis Jesuit, a team that has fallen short of the top spot three years in a row, hopes to take first. The Raiders' last time atop of the podium was 2014.
Fossil Ridge's quest for another year of success is led by senior Danny Kovac. He finished first in both his individual disciplines (200-yard IM and 100-yard-butterfly) during Thursday's prelims, recording all-American times in both.
On Saturday, Kovac seeks to better last season's second-place finish in the 100-yard-butterfly. But the senior is more focused on the 400-yard freestyle relay than his solo events.
"The relay will be my last high school race ever," Kovac said. "I just love stepping up the podium against all the boys."
They qualified first in the relay on Thursday, followed by their foe, Regis Jesuit.
"It is going to be a tight battle for the podium tomorrow," Kovac said. "I just want to score points for my team. I want to step up in any and all ways for us. It's going to be close this year."
Regis had a strong showing from senior Elijah Warren and junior William Goodwin. Goodwin will try to shave time off his already stellar all-American time in the 200-yard-individual medley in an attempt to chase Kovac.
Goodwin recorded an All-American time in his second discipline as well, finishing second in the 100-yard breastroke, behind his teammate Warren. The Arizona State-bound senior, Warren, looks to finish first in both the 100-yard breaststroke and 50-yard-freestyle.
In the 200-yard medley-relay, Regis Jesuit qualified first in the prelims, beating the second-place team by over three seconds.
Arapahoe freshman Fletcher Hayes placed in the top eight in both the 200 yard IM and the 500-yard-freestyle, the only freshman that will compete in an A heat during Saturday's finals.
The night concluded with a swim-off for eighth place in the 200-yard-IM between Hinkley senior Nathan Leigh and Regis Jesuit sophomore Will Kerscher. Kerscher caught up in the last lap to capture the final spot in the A heat on Saturday.
The 1-meter diving preliminaries will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. This year's field of 36 is led by two-time state champion, Octavio Lucero. The Bear Creek senior will look to defend his 2017 title.
Swim finals begin at 3 p.m. Pool doors open at 12:45 p.m.