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Air Academy overcomes late deficit, captures first boys' swim title since 1999
Longtime Coronado swim coach Bob Bell already was having a great day after witnessing his Cougars take fourth place overall, highlighted by a pair of second-place finishes in the 200 and 400 free relays. The Cougars’ time in the 200 free relay was .02 off the state record heading into the day, which was then reset by D’Evelyn.
On top of that, Bell was named 4A boys swimming and diving Coach of the Year.
“This is very nice, but it also means there was a lot of hard work from a lot of people that needs to be recognized,” Bell said. “The kids just came and swam great throughout the whole meet. I’m very proud of what our team accomplished this year.”
THORNTON – Never has a team been so thrilled after finishing dead last in the final event of a state swimming and diving meet.
By then, the depth, breakthrough performances and a state-record time had more than vaulted the Air Academy boys’ swimming team to the 4A team title, its first since 1999.
“It’s just so satisfying, and there’s no better way I can imagine ending my senior year,” said Justin Dearden, who started the day by opening up the Kadets’ victorious 200 medley relay team and later broke a 19-year-old school record in the 200 individual medley. “I’m still in shock that we pulled it together, and I can’t comprehend how quickly it’s gone by.”
Air Academy clinched the crown after the 100-yard breaststroke, the second-to-last event Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center. Trailing D’Evelyn by 11.5 points at the time, the Kadets took advantage of their depth with three swimmers in the final, compared to none for the Jaguars. The result of the third-, fifth-, and eighth-place finishes turned that deficit into a 25.5-point cushion heading into the final event.
And even the final result of that event wasn’t viewed as a total failure.
“Our main goal was to have safe starts and fast swimming,” said Dearden, who will swim at Colorado School of Mines next year. “We still had a quick swim. We were satisfied with that.”
Air Academy finished with 241 team points, followed by D’Evelyn with 233.5. Cheyenne Mountain (200.5), Coronado (193) and Thompson Valley (163) rounded out the top five.
“They do have a very deep team,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Kate Doane said about the Kadets. “They're very strong and cohesive ... a great team. We had a great meet, and we're happy with where we are.”
The Indians, 4A runners-up the previous two years, were led by senior Jonathan Littles, who won the 50 freestyle and placed second on the 100 freestyle.
“I was disappointed in my time from the week before (4A Metro), but it was all about this week,” Littles said. “This week, we shaved, tapered and rested, and it definitely showed today. It was a really excited week.”
Following the conclusion of diving, Air Academy junior Devon Davis set a 4A state record in the 100 butterfly, eclipsing the 50-second barrier with a 49.79-second performance.
“Getting under 50 was the goal, and it was great to finally do that, especially here,” said Davis, last week’s city champion in the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke. “It’s been a great two days. It feels great to be a state champion.”
Even better if you’re the coach.
“We knew we could be this good, but the guys had to prove themselves,” fifth-year coach Scotty Newell said. “This is what we wanted, the picture you’d draw in what it takes. In high school sports, there are waves of talent, and for us, it was just timing with that talent. Now, we’ll roll off this energy. We want to be back here again.”
Swimming’s version of a triple-double
D’Evelyn’s Jeff Garnier, Longmont’s Connor Dwyer and Mountain View’s Alex Nickell, all seniors, finished their careers in style Saturday at the 4A boys’ state meet, each winning two individual events.
Garnier blew away the field in the 200 freestyle, setting a state record with a 1:37.18, nipping the mark of 1:37.42 set in 1997 by Jay Schryver. He finished 5.01 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. He later won the 100 free in 45.44, a 4A state meet record.
“He’s got a lot of natural talent and put it to good use,” said Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Grant Knorr, who finished seventh in the 200 free. “He’s a very good swimmer, that’s for sure.”
Dwyer won the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke – no record times, though, while Nickell claimed crowns in the 500 free and 100 backstroke.