U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY – It was a good week to be a Cherry Creek boys swimmer.
On Tuesday, the Bruins knocked off Regis Jesuit, its longtime rival and winners of the past four Class 5A state titles, and 19 of 20 overall, in a closely contested dual meet. Cherry Creek then kept that momentum going on Saturday by earning the team title at the inaugural Eagle Invitational, hosted by Pine Creek, at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Leading the charge was senior Sam Coffman, who touched first in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle and continuing his astounding comeback from rotator cuff surgery, which robbed him of his junior season.
“He’s come back with a vengeance after missing an entire year,” 13th-year Bruins coach Chris Loftis said. “It’s been fun to watch.”
Coffman took the 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 47.76 seconds, touching more than two seconds before teammate Joe Jang. It was a much different story in the 100, when the top three swimmers finished just .03 seconds apart.
When the dust settled, Coffman had finished .01 seconds ahead of Air Academy junior Tommy Baker, with Air Academy senior Hunter Doerr an eyelash behind.
Coffman also anchored the Bruins’ winning entry in the 200 freestyle relay and almost erased a three-second deficit on the final leg of the 400 freestyle relay in a runner-up effort to Air Academy.
“I am at 100 percent and back to where I was before the surgery,” Coffman said. “My injury was definitely an eye opener, and it made me realize how much I missed it. It made me want swimming that much more.”
Cherry Creek, which also got an individual victory from Elliot Schwinn in the 500 free, finished the day with 430.5 team points. Air Academy, the three-time and reigning 4A state champs, finished second with 319 points, highlighted by two individual wins and victories in two relays.
Caleb Hicks (200 individual medley) Tommy Baker (50 free) registered wins for the Kadets.
“Being able to swim at this venue is a huge thing for us and our community,” Air Academy coach Scotty Newell said. “Having a timed finals and not having prelims brought them in. No one wants another two-day invite at this time of the year.”
The event also served as a dress rehearsal for the 5A boys state meet, May 15-16. It will mark the first time the U.S. Air Force Academy has hosted a state swim meet since 1996.
It’s been even a longer wait for Cherry Creek to hoist a championship trophy, all the way back to 1994 in fact.
Although the events of this week can’t hurt, Cherry Creek knows a hungry Regis team will be ready for the challenge at state.
“I definitely think this team is special,” Coffman said. “Honestly, I think we have a good chance this year, but nothing is set in stone. Regis is notorious for having great swims at state.”
Cherry Creek and Air Academy combined to win eight of the 12 events. Coffman’s future college teammate at Missouri, Kyle Goodwin of Regis, won the diving competition as he seeks his fourth consecutive state 5A crown.
Greg Shaw of Coronado won the 100 butterfly, edging Air Academy’s Caleb Hicks by .01 seconds, while Andrew Weiss of Rampart (100 breaststroke) and Gabi Sasia of Highlands Ranch (100 backstroke) also earned individual titles.