More MoCo swimmers headed to state

GRAND JUNCTION -- Danyel Harman looked at coach Ed Stehlin and asked if she could see her split one more time. She still couldn't believe the time she swam about 30 minutes earlier to help Moffat County High School's 200-meter relay team qualify for state.

"I still can't believe it," said the Meeker student who swims for Moffat County. "It felt fast, but not that fast."

Harman swam a seasonal best by two seconds in her 50-meter leg and the Bulldog relay team qualified for state by .27 seconds. The team, which finished sixth overall in the event at the Western Slope Championships, achieved 34 personal bests, Stehlin said.

After the final race at Orchard Mesa pool, the Bulldogs claimed the weekend was full of fulfilled goals. They placed a swimmer in the top 12 of every event except the 500 freestyle. The team finished sixth with two Class 5A schools ahead of them. Everybody who had come close to swimming a state-qualifying time before the weekend improved enough to earn a trip the season finale.

"I don't think this weekend could have gone much better," senior Cara Conci said. "We're all really happy with how things went."

Going into the meet, the 200-medley relay and diver Amanda Vaughn were the state-qualified competitors. After Saturday the other two relays -- the 200 and 400 freestyle relays -- and senior Katie Stewart had earned trips to the Mountain View pool next weekend.

"This weekend was fabulous," said Stewart, who had been inching closer to qualifying in the 100 backstroke all season. "We all peaked and did what we wanted."

Stewart was the top finisher for Moffat County with a fourth-place showing in the backstroke. Her time of 1:08.09 was fast enough to qualify for state by .11 seconds. The 400-medley team of Sari Maneotis, Vanessa Murray, Conci and Stewart finished in fifth in the finals. The 400-team members surprised even themselves a bit Friday night when they qualified for the state meet in the prelims.

"The 200 time had been closer, so we thought we'd get that first," Conci said. "When we saw we made it last night we were pumped."

Stehlin said that the anchors in both freestyle relays made the difference.

"Our anchors (Harman in the 200 and Stewart in the 400) swam outstanding splits when it mattered," he said. "That's why they're anchors."

The 200-freestyle relay team of Stewart, Murray, Conci and Harman finished sixth along with Vaughn in diving. The senior diver didn't finish as well as she would have liked after her final dive was declared a zero dive. After the call, both diver and coach questioned the zero score that dropped Vaughn from fifth to sixth. The ruling was that Vaughn didn't complete her twist as she entered the water making it a failed dive and a no-score.

"It is a complete judgment call whether or not her body was turned 90 degrees when she entered the water," Stehlin said. "That was a tough call to make in the finals and the consistency of the head judge was questionable all weekend."

The zero dive shook Vaughn, but Stehlin tried to convince her that she still has next week.

"I told her to forget about it and concentrate on state," he said. "But that is a tough thing to overcome."

The Bulldogs will have at least eight swimmers compete at state, depending on who will be in the relays. After a disappointing Western Slopes last year, when several swimmers missed the state cut by thousandths of a second, Stehlin was relieved.

"Last year was painful for the seniors who were so close," he said. "I was a little worried because at practice this week they seemed a little out of it. I think what it was, was them being really focused."

Other top-12 finishes for the Bulldogs were: 200 medley relay, A-team, Stewart, Katie Gainor, Lauren Stover, Conci, seventh; B-team, Samantha Janiga, Maneotis, Ashleigh McDonald, Murray, ninth; 200 freestyle, Julie Strahan, ninth; 50 freestyle, Harman, 11th, 100 butterfly, Gainor, eighth, Maneotis, 10th; 100 freestyle, Conci, 11th; 200 freestyle relay, B-team, Strahan, Janiga, Gainor, McDonald, 11th; 100 backstroke, Strahan, 12th; 100 breaststroke, McDonald, 12 th, 400 freestyle relay, B-team, Gainor, Strahan, Janiga, Emily Kirk, 11th.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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