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Boys' swimming preview: Widefield ends 13-year itch, brings back sport to varsity level
THREE PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Devon Davis, Air Academy, senior: As a junior, he set the 4A state record in the 100 butterfly, finished second in the 100 breaststroke and helped Air Academy to a victory in the 200 medley relay en route to the Kadets’ first team title since 1999.
Hunter Bains, Lewis-Palmer, junior: Finished eighth in the 200 free and 16th in 100 free in helping Rangers to a sixth-place finish at 5A state meet.
Danny Kay, Coronado, senior: Finished fourth in the 50 free and seventh in the 100 free at last year’s state meet in helping the Cougars to a fourth-place team finish.
March 7: Dual season begins
March 30: Coaches Invite, VMAC, Thornton
April 5-6: Indian Invite, Cheyenne Mountain
April 19-20: Hornet Invite, Pueblo County
April 26-27: Spartan Invite, Doherty
May 10-11: Metro League Championships, Rampart
May 10-11: PPAC Championships, Cheyenne Mountain
May 17-18: State 4A meet, VMAC, Thornton; State 5A meet, EPIC, Fort Collins
It started as a simple question, then an ambitious idea to restore a bit of the past at Widefield.
Why doesn’t our school offer boys’ swimming as a varsity sport?
The thought entered the minds of then-sophomores MacKenzie Nance and Raymond Jordan last year when they took swimming as a class at the Widefield Community Center. Nance’s dad, Adam, once swam for the varsity boys’ swimming team for the Gladiators. Later, in 2000, the team dissolved due to lack of interest.
On March 8, Nance and 25 other Widefield swimmers made history at Fountain-Fort Carson for the season-opening dual meet.
The Gladiator swimmers are back.
“I was wondering why we hadn’t had a team in so long,” said Nance, who competes in the 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 50 freestyle and 200 medley relay. “It’s humbling to see an idea turn into a team of 26 guys working their butts off now. My dad was ecstatic when I told him. It means a lot to the school, to me and to my friends.”
Under coach Jeff Schurz, who previously coached boys’ and girls’ swimming at Harrison, the idea gained momentum. Schurz, a Montrose native who teaches math at Widefield, took the idea as motivation to poll other students to see if the interest was there.
Then it took the encouragement of administration to make the team a reality.
“I’ve wanted a team since I got to Widefield two years ago,” Schurz said. “It took the convincing of people above me, who wondered if we could get enough kids. I just started asking my students if they’d be interested.”
At an informal meeting, nearly 30 prospective swimmers showed up. Most had never swum competitively, or even competed at a sport at Widefield at the varsity level.
“Heading into that first dual, only four of them had ever been in a swim meet before, so they were excited and pretty nervous,” Schurz said. “We’re all excited about having a new sport here. For a lot of them, it’s the first sport they’ve played, and it’s good to see them doing something outside the classroom.”
It didn’t take long for a future prospect to shine. Freshman Josh Canada won the 200 individual medley, the 500 freestyle and gave the Gladiators a solid start on the first leg of their victorious 200 medley relay team.
“He is most certainly the future of our team,” Nance said. “His natural competitiveness, just being in the same room, it makes everyone just want to do better. He will be a star for the Widefield swimming team and will definitely be the leader of the team in the years to come.”
Schurz, who served as an assistant on the Widefield/Mesa Ridge consolidated girls’ team that made history last month when its 200 freestyle relay team qualified for state for the first time in more than a decade, wants to keep hopes realistic for the boys’ team.
“It definitely goes in steps,” Schurz said. “First, it’s participation, getting more people interested and excited about something new. Then, we’ll start increasing goals and getting state times. We’re probably a year away from state times, but it’s cool to see Widefield get more swimmers and giving them a chance they haven’t had before.”
For Nance, it’s also a chance to represent his school, just as his dad did.
“My biggest thing is to hope my high school times will beat his high school times,” Nance said.