The afternoon started rough for the Moffat County boys swimming team at the first day of the state meet, but the Bulldogs turned it around in the second half of the competition.
The Bulldogs swam in two relays, and Matt Hulstine swam in two individual events. Hulstine will be the only Bulldog to return to swim Saturday, when he’ll race in the consolation finals of the 200-yard individual medley and the finals of the 100-yard breaststroke.
Moffat County’s 200-yard medley relay team swam in the first heat of the state meet Friday. They weren’t quite ready for that event, swimming slower than their qualifying time and missing out on making the top 16. Head coach Meghan Francone said it was just one of those races where it didn’t come together.
“You never know what the boys are going to bring,” she said.
But the team of Hulstine, Jesse Kurz, Chris Kling and Brenden Carta recovered in a big way for their 200-yard freestyle relay. The Bulldogs swam a 1:38.51, their fastest time of the season. While it still wasn’t good enough to move them on to swimming Saturday, it was an impressive turnaround.
“That’s a tough thing to do,” Francone said. “To come back from a swim like that mentally, and a lot of the boys had their best (split) times ever. That was really exciting for them.”
Hulstine’s day in the individual races mirrored that of the team’s relay performances. In the 200 IM, he struggled to get going and got the 15th qualifying time, which means he’ll swim in the consolation finals Saturday. He had entered the event with the fifth-best time in the state but has dealt with a difficult week leading up to the meet.
“I didn’t have my best times (Friday) because I haven’t gotten to practice as much as I like,” he said.
The senior is coming off an illness and a dislocated finger. He said he’s mostly recovered from both, but they kept him out of the pool during recovery.
“It was really more that it took a lot of my practice time,” he said. “My finger is not really bothering me and I’ve got it taped up.”
After helping the Bulldogs in their team-best freestyle relay, the senior immediately hopped back in the warmup pool to get ready for his biggest race, the 100 breast. And while his 1:01.24 was not near his best time of the year, it was still good enough to earn him a spot in the final eight Saturday, which is what he wanted.
“I still feel confident,” he said. “I think if I get a good rest tonight and feel fresh, and I can have a great race. Regardless of my rest, I think I can still be one the of the top guys in that event.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org