Swimmers battle tough teams, bus accident blues | CraigDailyPress.com

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Swimmers battle tough teams, bus accident blues

By ELWOOD K.SHELTON
Daily Press writer
There’s something hanging over the Lady Bulldogs’ swim practice a couple tons of twisted metal.
The Dec. 11 bus accident, when the girls were en route to Durango for their season opening meet, still looms over the team in many forms.
Coach Ed Stehlin can see the adverse effects of the bumps and bruises, and the practices that have been missed for chiropractor and doctor appointments.
Junior Jenna Waite sees the mental changes in her team since the bus rolled on Dec. 11.
She believes the team’s pre-season momentum was wiped away with one slip on the ice.
“Mentally, the bus rolling almost destroyed us,” Waite said, although, she herself was not involved in the accident. “We were ready to compete at our first meet, and then something like the crash happens, and it wipes out any mental toughness we had built up.”
The mental toughness was tested to the extreme Saturday at Fort Collins’ Epic Pool, site of the 2001 Colorado Invitational.
The invitational is one of the most difficult that Colorado offers, with many of the events’ qualifying times being faster than those for the state meet.
The invitational also had an extra dimension this year.
Of the 71 teams that sent swimmers, 14 of them were Class 4A, and 57 were Class 5A.
“It was the biggest Colorado Invitational I’d ever seen,” Stehlin said. “And, when all was said and done, the top-six teams were all Class 5A.”
The Lady Bulldogs had seven girls who swam the invitational qualifying times last year, and out of the seven girls, only one relay team and one swimmer would float to the top.
The 200 medley relay team of Waite, Heather Whiting, Chloe Gilchrist and Miranda Hillewaert is the first team of the season to qualify for state.
The medley relay team was the first event the girls swam, finishing with a time of 2:04.29.
Whiting’s was the only other qualification the Lady Bulldogs had, finishing eleventh in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:12.40.
“We really didn’t swim our best this weekend,” Stehlin said. “We’re still really banged up, and need some time to recover.
“We’ll get some rest coming up here,” he said. “With winter break and no meets until January, but it will also all depend on how the girls use their time off.”