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Mesa Ridge/Widefield girls' swim team makes history, sets course for future
THORNTON • Next year, Melissa Knutson plans on staying at Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center a little bit longer. But for nearly two glorious minutes Friday during the preliminaries at the 4A state championships, the fourth-year coach of the Widefield School District 3 consolidated girls’ team witnessed history.
For the first time in a decade, the Mesa Ridge/Widefield team was represented in a swimming event at the state meet. Its 200 freestyle relay team recorded a state-qualifying time in the final week of the regular season Feb. 2 at the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference meet at Cheyenne Mountain.
Seeded 31st out of 34 teams to achieve a state time during the 2012-13 season, the district team improved on its previous best time of 1:50.54 by more than 2 seconds, finishing a respectable 23rd after stopping the clock in 1:48.25.
“Being our first time here, we kept it lighthearted and low key,” Knutson said. “Let this be the experience year. Next year, that’s when we mean business. We do anticipate more qualifications next year, in more than just a relay.”
The foursome of freshman Jacqui Moran, sophomore Carmen Mena and juniors Jamie Quirk and Kayla Kuecker somehow dropped two seconds off their previous best time in the 200 free relay at last weekend’s league meet.
“That was pretty amazing,” Mena said. “We never thought we’d get here. Just to come here as a team for the first time was great and gives us a feel for what state is like. Next year, a few of us want to come back in individual events, too.”
Mena barely missed out on qualifying in both her individual events – her time in the 100 butterfly was .06 seconds shy of the cut, while she lacked only .18 seconds to earn a berth in the 200 individual medley.
The surprise of unexpectedly qualifying forced a change in plans for what was thought to be a routine week.
“We were all thinking we’d have the week off,” Knutson said. “Some of the girls had doctor’s appointments, so we had to reschedule those. We had a drum line sendoff at school to recognize the girls. We definitely think this was a Cinderella story. We’re definitely an underdog in the swimming world. We’re not a strong program, but we like to think we’re up and coming.”
Kuecker won’t soon forget Friday’s race and hopes it wills serve as a foundation for future teams that compete under the District 3 banner.
“We’re planning on coming back,” Kuecker said. “Our medley relay was close, and several of us almost qualified in individual events. Just being here, it definitely brings back hope. That would be amazing if this is the start of something that can happen every year.”