FORT COLLINS -- Evergreen has been a power the last three seasons in Class 4A girls swimming and diving. The only thing missing was a title.
The Cougars had placed second as a team in 2012 and third in 2013, but had never tasted a state title in the sport in school history. That changed Saturday afternoon at the Edora Pool Ice Center as Evergreen ran away and hid from the 4A field with 332.5 points, nearly 90 points ahead of their nearest competitor, Thompson Valley, which finished with 244.
“The past couple of years we’ve been on the cusp of having the potential to win and we just came into this meet knowing that it was going to be a race,” Evergreen star Lindsay Morrow said. “We all performed really well.
“This is the first time Evergreen’s ever won state in swimming, so that’s huge for us in making history. It was really fun that we were able to be a part of that and be a good showing for Evergreen."
Morrow, a state champion in the 200-yard individual medley as a freshman, claimed her second state title in the event Saturday with a time of 2:05.29 and her first state title in the 100-yard backstroke. Her backstroke time of 55.69 was merely .06 seconds off her own 4A state record, set during prelims on Friday.
“It wasn’t a best time for me, but I’m really happy I got the record (Friday), which was kind of my goal going into it,” Morrow said.
Morrow also swam the first leg of the champion 200-yard medley relay that just held off Manitou Springs 1:48.28 to 1:48.88.
Evergreen coach Jeanne Godaire had high praise for her star junior.
“She’s the most determined swimmer I think I’ve ever met,” Godaire said. “She’s such a firecracker in the water and comes off the blocks and off the turns and is just such a persevering swimmer.”
Thompson Valley entered the weekend as the four time defending state champions, but Evergreen, which was expected to contend last season, too, had its 200-yard medley relay disqualified in that meet and had to settle for third as a team.
“It was the first event,” Godaire said. “It was tough on them knowing that we weren’t in contention for first after losing all those points. The girls really rallied, they showed a lot of character for our team, but this year we were definitely rooting for everyone to just get through the relays and place as high as they could.”
This season Evergreen, had enough firepower and depth to claim the title.
“It’s kind of hard to believe,” Godaire said. “It’s a victory so sweet for us. We were hoping for it, but we were waiting until the end to make sure that we had it.
“It’s so exciting for our team,” Godaire added. "I can’t express how excited the whole community is going to be in Evergreen for our victory.”
Evergreen won the state title in the 200-yard medley relay, placed third in the 400-yard freestyle relay, and fouth in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The win was a complete effort by the Cougars as they scored big points in everything from the 1-meter diving competition to the 100-yard freestyle to the 500-yard freestyle.
Evergreen unseating Thompson Valley for the 4A crown wasn’t the only highlight of the afternoon in Fort Collins, though.
Alexa Beckwith, a senior at St. Mary’s Academy and a University of Missouri recruit, won her fourth state title in diving with a score of 479.75 points, more than 15 points ahead of Mullen’s Katie Russ. Beckwith is one of the top prep divers in the nation.
Valor Christian’s Brooke Stenstrom, a sophomore, won the 50-yard freestyle in 23.66 and the 100-yard freestyle by nearly a full second over the field in 51.70. The state championships were the first individual titles of Stenstrom’s career.
Cheyenne Mountain’s senior Sydney Buckley won her third consecutive 100-yard butterfly title in a near 4A record time of 55.85. The mark was only .21 seconds off the record held by Mackenzie Stein of Green Mountain in 2011. Stein now swims at Stanford.
Windsor’s superstar freshman, Morgan Friesen, set the 4A record in the 100-yard breaststroke during prelims on Friday with a time of 1:03.28. Saturday, Friesen blew that time out of the water and became the first 4A swimmer to ever go sub 1:03 in the event with a sizzling 1:02.73. The time was just a little short of the all-classification record of 1:02.47.
All of these performances were quite impressive, but Thompson Valley’s Eryn Eddy shined as bright as any star on Saturday. The junior, who came into the weekend with two individual state titles to her name, added to her already illustrious career with two more individual titles in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races.
Eddy won the 200-yard freestyle by over five seconds over D’Evelyn’s Colleen Olson. Her time of 1:48.89 was just off her own 4A record of 1:48.34, set last season at state, and she repeated as the 200 freestyle champion.
She also tried the 500 freestyle for the first time at state and came close to the classification record in that event, as well, with a 4:56.03, 15 seconds clear of the field and only a second and a half off the record.
Eddy said she enjoyed both races on Saturday.
“200’s my baby and I love it, but I also really like the 500,” Eddy said. “I knew that I had to really focus on my tempo. I knew that I was going to have to race girls from a different perspective. Again, like the 200, I had to get into a different mental mode of how I was going to get out there and race, so I just really got out there and tried my best.”
The Thompson Valley junior anchored the winning 200 and 400-yard freestyle relays. The Eagles won their fifth consecutive 200 freestyle relay in a mark of 1:37.01, but the 400 freestyle relay was perhaps the most exciting race of the day.
D’Evelyn held the lead the first three legs of the event and still held a comfortable gap when Eryn Eddy dove in. Eddy made up a few-yards, then a few more-yards, then a few more-yards, before finally catching D’Evelyn’s Jacinda Whittenburg with 25 meters to go. Eddy closed hard the last 25 to lead Thompson Valley to the win 3:32.07 to 3:32.66.
“I asked to go last, because I love playing catch up,” Eddy said after the race. “I really just put it out for my girls today. We had a large amount of our team come back and cheer for us, so I just put it out there for my Lady Eagles.”
Fantastic individuals starred on Saturday in Fort Collins, but nothing could completely steal the spotlight from Evergreen’s team title. The scary part for the rest of the state is that the Cougars had zero seniors in the state finals.
“I think we’re going to come back with a strong team and I’m sure the other teams will get some new and great swimmers too, but we’re just really enjoying the moment right now,” Godaire said.
“All were doing is gaining next year,” added Morrow, “which is fun and everybody’s going to get a lot better, so I’m really excited for next year, as well.”