5A girls swimming: Cherry Creek wins 27th state championship

(Paul Soriano/CHSAANow.com)

THORNTON — Cherry Creek, the winningest girls swim program in Colorado history, added another team title to its collection at the 5A swimming and diving state championships at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center Thursday night.

The Bruins ended Fairview High School’s two-year reign as state champ as they won the meet by a score of 430-392 over the Knights. Regis Jesuit finished third overall with 298 points.

It is Cherry Creek’s 27th state crown in girls swimming and diving, and its first since the 2010 season capped a run of six-straight championship results.

“These last 10 years we’ve had our share of ups and downs, mostly down,” said Cherry Creek head coach Eric Craven, now in his 30th year. “This year we got it done, and it sure is nice to be back on top.”

The Bruins finished second to Fairview last season (382.5-342), a result that stuck with Cherry Creek all year.

“Last year the girls were kind of hoping and wishing they could win state,” Craven added. “We had the athletes. Finishing second last year gnawed on them a little bit. This year, they just had that look in their eyes that said “We’re going to win it.”

For senior Jenna Smith, Thursday’s win was especially sweet.

“Last year we came really, really close, and it was pretty heartbreaking for all of us,” she said. “We were really proud of our team last year, but it was hard to get that second place. Just going into this season, even though it was a lot different than past seasons, we were like: “It’s time for the Lady Bruins to take the win!”

“We pulled together all season long and we trained so hard. I have never seen this team work so hard,” Smith added. “I don’t really have words for how happy I am right now. This is absolutely incredible, especially being my senior year. We’ve set a standard for years to come, and so I think there will be a lot more state championships in our future.”

For junior Elizabeth Brock, winning the state championship is “kind of a surreal moment. A lot of us were expecting this to happen, but we didn’t realize the enormity of it until it happened.”

“This win means more than anything, especially this year,” she added. “I’m going to look back on this when I am an adult and be so happy that we did it, and that I spent time with people that are hilarious and work hard and make me feel good.”

While Cherry Creek dominated the team competition, a trio of swimmers — Lucy Bell of Fossil Ridge, Kathryn Shanley of Chatfield and Emma Weber of Regis Jesuit— each won two individual events during the meet.

Bell, a junior, flew to an easy win in the 100 butterfly with a time of 52.50. It marked the first time since 2015 that someone without the last name Gillilan captured the state championship.

Coleen Gillilan of Fossil Ridge won the title from 2016-18. Her sister, Renee, earned state crowns for the SaberCats in 2019 and 2020.

Fairview took the second- and third-place spots in the race thanks to Edith Simecek (53.87) and Jenna Reznicek (54.51).

Bell rung up another state championship in the very next race as she defended her crown in the 100 freestyle with a time of 50.23. Lyndsey Wehr of Arapahoe finished in second place (51.03), followed closely by Ana Rojas of Doherty (51.11).

(Paul Soriano/CHSAANow.com)

Shanley, a senior, repeated as state champion in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:48.65. Karolina Bank, a junior from Fairview, finished second (1:49.93), followed by Brock of Cherry Creek (1:50.77).

In the 500 freestyle, Shanley hit the repeat button once again. The 2020 champion lit the scoreboard with a time of 4:51.18. Brock finished second in 4:56.04, while Sabrina Rachjaibun, a sophomore from Legacy, took third place with a time of 5:02.94.

Weber, a junior, earned a victory in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:01.71. Fossil Ridge’s Mahala Erlandson finished second (2:02.51) and Rachjaibun claimed the third spot (2:04.16) just ahead of Julianne Jones of Fairview (2:04.59).

Weber then blew away the field in the 100 breaststroke to win her second state title in the event. Her time of 59.93 set a new state record, eclipsing the mark of 1:00.22 set by Zoe Bartel of Fossil Ridge in 2017.

Weber was a freshman at Fairview in 2019 when she captured the title for the first time with a time of 1:02.04.

Dahlia Allen, a junior from Lewis-Palmer High School, began the day by winning the state championship in 1-meter diving with a score of 503.10. Isabel Gregersen of Ralston Valley, last year’s champion, finished second (485.45), while Catherine Rodocker of Eaglecrest finished third (469.20).

Fossil Ridge captured the first swim event of the day, the 200 medley relay. The SaberCats (Gillilan, Erlandson, Rylee O’Neil and Bell) blazed to a time of 1:40.88 in Lane 1. Fairview finished second (1:41.54), followed by Regis Jesuit (1:43.12) and Cherry Creek (1:43.26).

In the 50 freestyle, Wehr of Arapahoe won the state championship with a time of 23.22. Lawson Ficken of Cherry Creek finished second with a time of 23.32, followed by Morgan Lukinac of Fairview at 23.46.

Fairview earned the state championship in the 200 freestyle relay with a record-time of 1:33.80. That mark — set by Samantha Mosier, Julia Urbanowski, Bank and Lukinac — shattered the Colorado state record in the event set by Chatfield High School in 2020 (1:34.12). Cherry Creek finished second with a time of 1:34.45 as the Bruins barely edged Chatfield (1:34.47).

Sydney Bales of Legacy won the 100 backstroke in 54.07 to edge Fairview teammates Reznicek (54.53) and Simecek (55.16).

2021 5A Girls Swimming and Diving State Champions

  • Diving: Dahlia Allen, Lewis-Palmer
  • 200 Medley Relay: Fossil Ridge
  • 200 Freestyle: Kathryn Shanley, Chatfield
  • 200 Individual Medley: Emma Weber, Regis Jesuit
  • 50 Freestyle: Lyndsey Wehr, Arapahoe
  • 100 Butterfly: Lucy Bell, Fossil Ridge
  • 100 Freestyle: Lucy Bell, Fossil Ridge
  • 500 Freestyle: Kathryn Shanley, Chatfield
  • 200 Freestyle Relay: Fairview
  • 100 Backstroke: Sydney Bales, Legacy
  • 100 Breaststroke: Emma Weber, Regis Jesuit
  • 400 Freestyle Relay: Fossil Ridge

(Paul Soriano/CHSAANow.com)