Relay two seconds from state qualification

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ARVADA -- After two long days of swimming, Moffat County High School girls swim coach Ed Stehlin wasn't sure what to expect from his 400-meter freestyle relay team. The final event of the final day at the Jeffco Invitation would turn out to make the four-hour drive back to Craig a little bit more enjoyble.

"I'm really happy for them because all four swam well and it shows we can get that relay to state too," Stehlin said.

The four relay members, Katie Stewart, Cara Conci, Sari Maneotis and Vanessa Murray, swam their combined legs in 4 minutes, 11.3 seconds -- two seconds from qualifying for the state meet in February. The team finished 12th overall in a meet that hosts 22 teams, a majority of them Class 5A

"We finally had a good time for that relay," Stewart said. "With it being at the end of the day, who knew what we could do? But I think we're happy."

In the most stacked swim meet they'll participate in until state, the Bulldogs took 18th out of 22 teams. The Bulldogs finished right around Western Slope teams Montrose, 16th, and Fruita, 20th, while Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction proved they were the teams to beat with second- and third-place finishes respectively.

"Eighteenth wasn't our best but the relays had a good weekend," Stehlin said.

Good, bordering on great, would describe the 200 freestyle relay team's weekend. In the qualifying rounds the team of Murray, Stewart, Conci and Heather Whiting was within .06 seconds of qualifying for state.

Whiting didn't swim in the finals to rest her shoulder, and Danyel Harman swam instead.

The team finished 15th and with the realization that six-one hundredths of a second seems like infinity.

"Can't someone just give us that extra .06," Murray begged Stehlin after the swim. "That's just a flinch that we missed it by."

There's no help needed for the medley relay team as it has already made the state cut. The team of Stewart, Lauren Stover, Maneotis and Conci finished 16th in the finals.

Before the final swims Saturday, diver Amanda Vaughn made the first cut from 30 divers down to 20. It was the first time in her four years she made the initial cut and just missed the second cut, finishing 18th when the top 16 made it into the finals. After the first five dives the top 20 divers made it to the next round and after three more dives four more divers were cut.

"The two dives that hurt her were simple dives," Stehlin said. "But she hit the inward-dive pike and got great scores on one of her tougher dives."

Individually Maneotis and Stewart just missed making it into the finals. Maneotis was the second-fastest swimmer in the 200 individual medley not to make it into the finals and Stewart was one spot away from swimming in the finals of the 100 backstroke.

"I sort of missed a turn and it cost me," Stewart said. "We'll figure out a way to get there."

Stehlin explained how his team can get all three relays into the finals of Jeffco, but not any individuals.

"I don't have just one stud," he said. "I have eight girls who all swim pretty well and that makes our relays our strengths."

The depth of the Bulldogs' relay teams also played a part in the JV races. The Jeffco meet is unique because it also has a qualifying and a final round for the junior varsity. Moffat County had two winners in the JV races. The 200-medley relay team of Julie Strahan, Ashleigh McDonald, Katie Stewart and Emily Kirk won with a time of 2:16.9. Katie Gainor was victorious in the 50 freestyle swimming it a time of 29.5 seconds.

The JV freestyle relays were also in the top eight as the 200 team (Gainor, McDonald, Kirk and Kristy Joos) took eighth and the 400 team (Gainor, McDonald, Kirk and Sarah Graler) finished fifth.

Next up for the Bulldogs is a trip to a meet in Gunnison Saturday.

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

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