Craig Sea Sharks ready to cap season with home state meet |

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Craig Sea Sharks ready to cap season with home state meet

If you go…

What: Colorado seasonal state swimming meet

When: 8 a.m. today and Sunday

Where: Craig Swimming Complex, 605 Washington St.

— General admission is free both days. Check Monday’s edition of the Craig Daily Press or visit http://www.craigdailypre… to see full results from the three-day event.

With summer coming to a close and the first day of school on the horizon, the Craig Sea Sharks have one last chance to compete in the pool this weekend.

The Colorado seasonal state swimming meet began Friday at the Craig Swimming Complex and continues today and Sunday.

The Sea Sharks have 12 swimmers competing in 33 events during the three-day event, which includes more than 360 swimmers from around the state.

Head coach Alexa Ruppel said everyone on the team was "really excited" to swim the state meet in their home pool.

"This is the last meet of the season, and the best part is it's here," Ruppel said. "We qualified more swimmers than ever before, and I think that gives them all an extra boost of excitement."

Ruppel said each swimmer improved in almost every area of the sport this season.

"I think qualifying as many swimmers as we did for this weekend goes to show that everyone progressed a ton," she said. "They improved on technique and yardage, but they also got more enthusiastic as the season went on."

Heading into the team's last practice Thursday, Ruppel said her and fellow coach Katherine Dodd asked each swimmer what their goal was for the state meet.

Several of the athletes want to medal or drop times, but Ruppel said she and Dodd also had goals for the swimmers.

"As coaches, we want them to have fun," she said. "We really want them to really go for it and go as hard as they can, but never stop having fun."

The Sea Sharks will have swimmers competing all day today and Sunday.

Team leaders

Matt Hulstine and Eryn Leonard stood along the pool Friday during the first day of the state meet, a meet in which they would not be competing.

Although Hulstine and Leonard are members of the Sea Sharks, both competed July 29 and 31 in Lakewood during the 2011 Long Course State Championships.

Heading into the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke finales, Hulstine said he knew he could take first.

Although he wasn't ranked first in either event, Hulstine said he knew he could swim times faster than his opponents, so anything less than first place would have been disappointing.

Hulstine didn't falter, winning both races with personal bests.

"A lot of the competition swims year round, so they are good swimmers," Hulstine said. "There were kids from Denver and the Front Range, but I knew I could go faster than my seed time, so I was happy with the results."

Leonard competed in the 100-meter butterfly and the 100-meter freestyle, qualifying for the finals in both events.

Leonard took 20th in the 100-meter butterfly and 18th in the 100-meter freestyle.

While the competition level was good, Leonard said the course also required some adjustments.

The pool the Sea Sharks practice in is a 25-meter short course pool while the long course pool is 50 meters.

"Long course pools are more about endurance and you don't have to worry about your dives or turns as much," she said. "In short course, the dives and turns can go for you or against you."

Both Leonard and Hulstine compete on the MCHS swim teams, but Leonard said the competition is different during school and during the summer.

"During the summer, we see a lot more Front Range kids and I would say they are more competitive," she said. "During the school year, we compete against more Western Slope teams, which aren't as strong."

While winning the state championship was great, Hulstine said, his performances qualified him for a bigger event.

Along with the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke, Hulstine also qualified for the 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley for the 2011 Western Zone Championships, which take place Aug. 9 to 13 in Clovis, Calif.

The meet will have teams from 11 states competing, with Hulstine swimming as part of the Colorado team.

"It feels great to make the (Colorado) team and I am happy with the summer season I have had so far," he said. "This is my first time making this team and I just really want to have fun and compete at a high level."

Still, Hulstine said, he has his eyes set on another goal.

"I am going to work on taking a few seconds off my events, but I want to qualify for the National Junior team," he said.

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