The poolside manner of the Moffat County High School girls swim team at practice involved an above-average amount of horseplay Wednesday.
"That's a good sign," said coach Ed Stehlin after watching several girls splash around in the pool between laps. "When they get squirmy like this it means they have energy."
As far as the numbers and level of competition, this weekend is the Bulldogs' biggest meet until state. The Jeffco Invitational will have 22 teams and those teams are some of the top in all divisions for Colorado.
"It's a fast pool with fast competition," Stehlin said of the two-day meet. "As always we hope that pulls us to some state-qualifying swims."
Last year the Bulldogs were shut out of qualifications at Jeffco, but they had both short relays already qualified and nobody else qualified the rest of the year. This year the short medley relay team has qualified, but the short freestyle relay team hasn't made the cut yet and there are several individuals less than a second off.
"They're so close, I hope to see them make it this weekend," Stehlin said.
Three of the spots for the freestyle team are settled and whoever swims the fastest 50-meter freestyle race between Vanessa Murray, Samantha Janiga, and Danyel Harman will be the fourth swimmer on the relay.
The slow progress of junior Heather Whiting's recovery may take another step forward this weekend because Stehlin has her entered in the 100 breaststroke. Whiting, the state runner-up in that event two years ago, is still recovering from shoulder surgery.
"She's such a competitor I'm a little worried she'll go out there and swim so hard it will re-injure her again," Stehlin said. "At the same time, she could do well because the time I entered her with is really slow for her and she's still ranked pretty high."
Another swimmer who is ranked in the top 10 with her times is junior Sari Maneotis. Her times in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley aren't state-qualifying caliber yet, but if she can get into the final, Stehlin said there's a good chance she could qualify.
Senior Katie Stewart is also swimming split seconds off a qualifying time in the 100 backstroke.
Senior diver Amanda Vaughn will be competing in her first 11-dive competition this year. She has already qualified for state by scoring high enough in two six-dive competitions.
"The pressure is off her this year," Stehlin said. "She has been diving well this week, so we'll see if she can relax and do well out there."
The importance of the upcoming meet was conveyed in the workouts Stehlin prepared for his girls this week.
"We went hard Monday and Tuesday but the rest of the week we have a mini-taper," he said. "You can see that by their energy today."
The preliminary swims at the Meyers Aquatic Center in Arvada are Friday and the finals start Saturday with diving at 1 p.m. and swimming at 4 p.m.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com