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Rampart's late rally not enough to retake Pikes Peak Relays trophy from Air Academy
Julie Henninger could feel the pressure, even at the annual Pikes Peak Relays, always known for its stress-relieving qualities with a week’s worth of finals looming around the corner.
The Rampart sophomore knew her team was in a neck-and-neck battle with longtime rival and defending event-champion Air Academy. So when she hit the water for the anchor leg in the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, she somehow found another gear despite the fatigue of competing in four races.
Henninger touched first, but the Kadets held on to retain the trophy for the third time in four years Saturday at the Rampart pool.
“There’s a little pocket in there with the little extra energy to get to the end,” said Henninger, who also swam the anchor leg in Rampart’s victorious 200 freestyle relay. “When I heard how close the team race was, I knew we really had to go for it, just leave it all in the pool. There was a lot of pressure, but I think that pressure helped.”
Air Academy scored a 13-point victory over the Rams, led by junior and 2011 state qualifier Kayla Knock, who helped the 200 medley and 400 medley relays to victory and claimed an individual triumph in the 100 breaststroke. Kadets junior Ashley Dickerson won the 100 butterfly, part of the school’s event-best four victories.
Cheyenne Mountain touched first in three relays, the 500 crescendo, 200 butterfly and 200 breaststroke. Sophomore Alden Lovaas took part in all three, while junior Chloe Buckler competed in two.
“We’ve performed well in relays because I think it’s just how well our team works together as a whole,” Buckler said. “You’re really doing it for the team since you are four people with one goal. It’s not about yourself or your own time, but for the greater good for the team.”
In the 200 backstroke relay, Doherty senior and three-time 5A state qualifier Sarah James gave her team a 2-second lead. Then junior Hannah Kennedy and sophomores Emily Mehlhop and Kylee Hart didn’t let up as the Spartans defended their event title by resetting their meet record in 1 minute, 58.59 seconds.
“We had to make it faster this year, and we were trying to go under two minutes,” said James, the second swimmer in last year’s relay that finished in 2:00.51. “I don’t know which of the three will be faster. They’re all so close. Being a senior, it’s a good feeling to be the person to give advice and help out.”
Mehlhop also finished in second in the 100 backstroke, getting extra motivation from James, the runner-up to Olympic champion Missy Franklin in the event at last season’s 5A state meet.
“We had high expectations, and I’m glad we could perform how we did,” Mehlhop said. “Sarah is definitely a role model for all of us. She’s an example of someone of what can happen when you put your heart and everything you’ve got into this sport, and we all look up to her.”