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Girls' swimming season preview: Franklin, Olympics success spur growth of region's swim teams
Much has happened in the sports of girls’ swimming since Cheyenne Mountain’s Sydney Buckley won the 4A state championship in the 100 butterfly.
That same early February weekend, Colorado’s own Missy Franklin set a state record and won two individual titles at the 5A state meet in front of a packed house in Fort Collins. She later broke the world record in the 200-meter backstroke at the London Games, part of a historic performance in which the women’s national team bagged 13 medals, including eight golds.
Even months after closing ceremonies, excitement from the Summer Games still seems to be rubbing off on Pikes Peak-area girls’ swimming teams. It’s more popular than ever to be a swimmer, as evidenced by the bump in the numbers as the season gets into full swing this week.
“It’s always exciting after the Olympic Games, and we’ve definitely seen a spike this year,” third-year Coronado coach Katie Baker said. “With everything on TV, the swimming really piqued the girls’ interests. We have 10 freshmen this year, and eight of those have never swam before. We have the advantage this year of having people excited and pumped up about Olympic swimming, and it’s carried into the schools.”
Buckley enters her senior season as the reigning champion, feeling motivation from her team, the desire to defend along with the prevailing energy surging from the Olympics.
“Swimming is a sport that gets forgotten sometimes, but the Olympics bring it back,” Buckley said. “When I watch Olympic swimming, I get goose bumps and get really nervous. I sometimes yell at the TV. When I’m in the pool, I know I have to work my hardest to stay on top, just like they do.”
Of course, having Franklin return to swim for her high school team will keep girls’ swimming very much in the news until the state meet in February.
“All these girls have someone in their own state, with Missy, and they have someone to look up to,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Kate Doane said. “I lot of these girls idolize her, and it’s a good things for Colorado swimming across the board. I know we have the largest team we’ve ever had at Cheyenne Mountain. We have 53, and last year we had between 38 and 42. It’s definitely up.”
While Lewis-Palmer coach Alan Arata didn’t notice a roster increase on his team, he didn’t discount the impact that Franklin and the women’s team have made in Colorado high schools.
“There’s always a post-Olympic bump, no question,” Arata said. “We had the same excitement after Michael Phelps won his eight golds in Beijing (in 2008). There were so many great women’s performances at the Olympics, not just Missy. The whole team did great things. I’d say that has to be a pretty big factor to what we’re seeing around here.”
And for a minute or two, Buckley pondered what it would have been like to swim next to Franklin at Edora Pool Ice Center, with the cameras popping and audience ready to explode with one of the all-time greats of our time ready to perform again.
“I’ve swam against her before in club,” Buckley said. “She’s really intense, but any chance to swim with those great girls would be awesome. It wouldn’t matter what place I got.”