The out-of-towners

Steamboat swimmer's decision to train year-round has made a difference

It was spring break, and just like his classmates at Steamboat Springs High School, Blake Worsley was road tripping and hanging out poolside. The difference was that Worsley's time on the road was to and from Craig, and his time in the pool was spent doing 50-yard repeats.

"I needed to stay home and swim," the senior said. "I had lots of other opportunities to go somewhere, but this is where I need to be."

Last year at this time, Worsley would have been much more likely to take his spring break with the rest of his classmates.

Not this year.

Swimming is Worsley's thing now.

"Swimming is huge for me now," he said. "I think about it the most of anything."

Last summer, Worsley watched the United States swim teams dominate the Olympics in Athens, and he decided he wanted to take the sport more seriously.

The year before the Olympics was Worsley's first to swim for the Moffat program. He made the drive to Craig at least twice a week because Steamboat has no high school program. Before his junior year, the only time he competed was in the summer for the Steamboat Springs swim club.

This year, he trained and raced through the fall, took December off and then trained through the winter.

"My times started to drop in the winter," he said. "At sectionals (in Seattle in March), I swam my best time ever in the 100."

Taking training seriously paid off immediately during the high-school season. Worsley has swum a state-qualifying time in all 12 races he has entered this season. Last year, he didn't qualify in one individual meet.

He broke the Moffat County school records in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle this year. He also is a member of all three record-setting relay teams.

"I feel a lot better this year," he said. "Getting the records is a fun thing to do."

Worsley has qualified for the state meet in nine of the 12 events, with one of the nonqualifying events being diving.

At Tuesday's practice coach Vorhies was lightly coaxing Worsley to swim in the 500 in one of the two meets this weekend.

"It's up to the seniors to decide," Vorhies said. "Blake has qualified in all but the 500 free and 100 breaststroke. It would be fun to see him qualify in them all, but that's his choice."

The seniors whom Worsley joined on the MCHS swim team knew Worsley from summer club. Nick Ruckman from Meeker, Andy Key from Rangely, and Moffat's Chris Compton and Zach Vorhies had competed against him during the summer. They meshed well as the Northwest Colorado All-Stars.

"They are the best group of kids I've met," Worsley said about his teammates. "That's why I have so much fun."

Moffat coach Jim Vorhies had nothing but good things to say about the addition from Steamboat.

"Without Blake, we would still be qualifying for state with our other guys," he said. "But with the times Blake is swimming, it brings the team to a different level."

In his six years of coaching, Vorhies has never had an individual in the top eight at state.

"We are going to score way more points than we ever had at state," Vorhies said.

Blake and his coach talked about top-three finishes at state.

"There are a lot of guys who are right around my times," Worsley said.

"By the time I taper, I hope to be ahead."

All of the work Worsley has put in has received notice.

The University of Denver offered him a chance to swim for them, and he has verbally committed to the team.

"There are guys who have looked at him that say he has a lot of potential," Vorhies said. "His times are going to take off late this season and turn even more heads."

The drastic improvement made by waiting until his senior year to train seriously could conjure up the "what ifs," but he wasn't regretful.

"My times may have been faster if I would have taken it more seriously earlier," he said. "But I like the way it worked."

It seems to have worked for everybody.

"The camaraderie with everybody has been great," Vorhies said. "He couldn't be a nicer kid."

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