AIR FORCE ACADEMY — The sting of finishing runner-up is still fresh in Ryan King’s mind.
The Montrose product was out-touched at the wall by Cheyenne Mountain standout Daniel Carr for the win and the state title in the 500-yard freestyle last spring.
Carr is swimming for the University of California now and King, a junior, is back at the Class 4A swimming and diving state championships to take care of unfinished business at the United States Air Force Academy pool.
“Losing that race stung a little bit, but it motivated me to work harder and come back here and go even faster,” King said.
King took the first step toward claiming state glory by winning the 500-freestyle prelims in a time 4:42.20.
“I feel confident I can swim faster (Saturday),” King said moments after climbing out of the pool. “I just need to rest (Friday night), eat a good dinner and bring it all together (Saturday).”
King has plenty left in his tank as his season-best time in the 500 freestyle is 4:37.79 which is good for All-American consideration.
The Class 4A state finals begin at 3 p.m. Saturday. Discovery Canyon’s Braden Whitmarsh was second in the 500 free in prelims at 4:45.68.
As a freshman, King placed third in the Class 4A 500 free, so reaching the prep summit Saturday would be special for him.
“Winning state would mean everything,” the 6-foot, 150-pound King said. “I have been so close the past two years and with all the support my teammates have been giving me I feel like I can do it. It would be awesome to do that. I just need to go out there and hold on. If I’m able to stand up there (on top of the podium) and represent my school and my town, that would be an amazing opportunity for me.”
King already has plans of swimming collegiately at the Division I level and his Montrose coach Silas Almgren gushed about his pupil’s qualities.
“Ryan is a real distant-based swimmer and even some of the events in high school aren’t really his best,” Almgren said. “He’s more of a miler and beyond, and pretty much every workout we have he’s leading everything and that takes a lot. There are not many days that somebody else gets in front of the train and takes it to the end. He comes in every day and gives his best.
What he swims isn’t glamourous. Everybody in the stands is going to get super excited for the 50 (freestyle) because watching power and speed is exciting, but for him it is distance and finesse.”
King also will be in the 200 freestyle finals Saturday as he finished fifth in prelims at 1:44.76. He also is the anchor for Montrose’s 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays. Montrose heads into the finals seeded No. 5 in the 200 free relay (1:30.35) and No. 6 in the 400 free relay (3:19.37).
“I love to race, and I hate losing,” King said. “It is fun to go out and help my teammates. It’s fun to help them in practice and it is awesome to come out here and swim fast in meets.”