The road to swimming on a high school swim team has been a long one for Nick Ruckman and Andy Key -- to be exact, 48 miles for Ruckman and 93 for Key.
Ruckman is from Meeker and Key lives in Rangely, but since their high schools don't offer a swim program, they compete for Moffat County High School.
"Sometimes the drive is harder than practice," said Ruckman, who makes the 100-mile roundtrip drive with his mother four days a week. "On the way back, I usually sleep."
Last year, Key hitched a ride with Jeff Orlee, a senior at Rangely, but now he drives himself once a week for practice.
"Jeff and I used to make it fun by chasing deer or passing imaginary people," he said. "Now I just drive and listen to music."
The two sophomores are on the road this weekend with the swim team for the last time in the season. The team, made up of seven Bulldogs, a Cowboy and a Panther, is competing at the state meet in Loveland at Mountain View High School. The preliminary round is today with the finals starting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
"We've been fortunate to have those two guys," said coach Jim Vorhies. "It takes a lot of dedication, especially on their parents' part."
Vorhies moved to Craig from Rangely and has known Key since he had floaties on his arms in the pool. They've kept in contact through summer club and worked out the deal to swim on the MCHS team.
"I love it in the summer because the top four finishers will usually be from Rangely, Craig and Meeker," Vorhies said. "Yet they all swim for me in the winter."
The two imports have a chance to help the Bulldogs finish the best in school history at the state meet. Both are competing in the 400-yard freestyle relay with Zach Vorhies and John Ilko, and Key also will be in the 200 freestyle relay with John Shipley, Kellan Moore and Kyle Eitel.
The 200 freestyle team is seeded the highest of the three MCHS relays at 14th. The 200-medley relay of Eitel (breast stroke), Chris Compton (backstroke), Shipley (butterfly) and Moore (freestyle) is seeded 17th and the 400 freestyle relay is ranked 27th.
"Even with the 400 free ranked so low, they could still break the school record," Vorhies said. "There's no telling where we'll wind up, but it is state and it will be fast."
Shipley, Jerry Davis and Compton will be representing the Bulldogs in individual events. Shipley is doubling with the 50 freestyle and diving. The senior is seeded 10th in the freestyle and, while there are no seedings in the diving, he is the Bulldogs' only district champion and best chance to score points.
Davis will join Shipley on the board with the hope of finishing in the top 12, but is uncertain of what he's up against.
"We still haven't seen many of the Front Range divers," Davis said. "There will be guys doing some pretty amazing dives."
Compton was the only swimmer to make the finals for MCHS last year with a 15th place in the backstroke. He goes into this year's meet seeded 13th.
"From what I can tell, the guys are focused and ready to go," Vorhies said.
"We're peaked and now it's just up to what kind of weekend