The faces of the Pueblo County girls swimming team have changed a lot since the Hornet hoisted the Class 3A runner-up trophy last February. It's still early in the season, but the results haven't changed as much as those generating them.
The Hornets got hit hard from graduation last year, losing Amanda Blickensderfer and Alex Musso. The two seniors were key components to the 200-yard medley relay teams and performed well in individual positions as the Hornets claimed back-to-back second-place finishes. Losing those two and other seniors that graduated from the program would indicate that County is ready to go into rebuilding mode.
"We graduated 12 seniors," coach Dan Radiff said. "We've been runner-er up two years in a row so you think, well it's time to start over again. Get things going."
That transition seems to be going smoother than Radiff could have hoped for. The Hornets finished sixth as a team at the Cheyenne Mountain Invitational on Dec. 21. That was better than any 3A school at the meet and better than several 4A and 5A programs.
"I just don't know what to expect from these schools because of their experience," he said. "I'm shocked I got all three relays back into the finals (at Cheyenne Mountain). Usually I can only get two."
He got to display one of those relay teams right from the get-go. Kandi Liberato, Brooke Musso, Anna Maurello and Adrianna Morrow-Guerrero finished fifth in the 200 medley relay with a time of one minute, 59 seconds.
Maurello is the lone senior on that relay team and one of the big leaders coming into the year for the Hornets. She's impressed with the way the rest of this team have just come in and really adopted the mentality that this team has taken into the season for the last few years.
"We've been battling one of those trophies for so many years now that it's kind of normal for us," she said. "We just have to stay focused, work hard and support each other."
That hard work and support is already showing signs of paying off. Liberato, a junior, has already logged a time of 1:00.06 seconds in the 100 backstroke. That time would have been good enough to finish fifth in the event at state.
It's not uncommon for times in December to to be a tad slower than what the swimmers expect them to be to in February. As they build themselves up, teams will target specific meets to shift gears and start competing like they're at state. For the Hornets, it's their own meet as they host the Hornet Invite on Jan. 17 and 18.
"It's one of the best meets of the entire season," Maurello said. "We get to prove to everyone that comes that this is our pool and we know how to swim in it."
They've shown over the last two seasons that they know how to swim. A couple of runner-up trophies are evidence to that fact. And by the time the season is over in February, they're hoping to add more hardware to show its the overall program, not just a few swimmers that generate successful results.