Fantastic 4: Moffat County swimmers qualify for 4 state races at league finals
They might not have the Invisible Woman or Human Torch on their roster, but the Moffat County High School girls swim team had results at the Southwestern Conference League Championships that could only be described as fantastic.
MCHS swimmers placed 10th overall at the regional event, making it to the finals in seven of the 11 races and most importantly lowering their times in four events to head to the 3A CHSAA state championships.
Relay all the way
Setting a new low Friday in the 200-yard freestyle relay as part of the league meet preliminary round was a great accomplishment, yet it wasn’t enough for Molly Neton, Alexa Neton, Katelynn Turner and Kelsey McDiffett.
The four of them were determined to not only beat their best but also make sure their last chance to qualify for state would count.
And baby, did it ever.
The 1:56.1 from Friday was scrubbed out with the quartet taking nearly a full second off their time at 1:55.19 and their best placement of the weekend for ninth.
Though not quite making it to the podium for top honors — which go to the top eight teams — Bulldog swimmers barely noticed as they basked in their latest feat.
Alexa noted that they were already feeling the possibility of going past their limits and weren’t entertaining any negative thoughts.
“We weren’t concerned, just excited,” she said. “We had a lot of adrenaline.”
Though all of the teammates consider each other like sisters, the two biological siblings were especially happy about qualifying together.
“It’s pretty awesome that we get to go to state together, do a sister relay,” Molly said.
Molly and Alexa’s mother and coach Melany Neton was likewise overjoyed at the outcome.
“All that work has really paid off,” she said.
The Netons, McDiffett and Turner warmed up for the free relay by hitting their lowest time of the season in the finals for the 200 medley relay, the first race of the day. Placing 13th, the 2:11.94 was less than two seconds from the state time.
Moffat County nearly had a second group in the medley relay, with Alyssa Chavez, Tayla Siminoe, Jaycee Holman and Jeni Kincher an alternate for the finals after placing 17th in prelims. A third medley team was 20th, consisting of Allison Jacobson, Jade Holman, Ellina Jones and Sammi Beaver.
The 400 free relay was the final race of the meet, and taking on the longer group swim were Chavez, Kincher, Jones and Siminoe in their first effort together.
Besides the anxiety of waiting all day for their race, Jones said she couldn’t help keeping an eye on the competition while in the water.
“I keep looking over to see if the Aspen girl was by my side, but I just wanted to stay ahead of her,” she said.
A good performance for 14th in prelims only got better on day two, and the team dropped nearly 15 seconds from their previous time to go 13th at 4:42.94.
For Kincher, who lives in Meeker but swims for the MCHS team, the last time in the pool for the season was a memorable one.
“I’m very thankful for them welcoming me onto the team, and I can’t wait to swim for them next year,” she said.
First-rate and ready for state
As far as individual races went, McDiffett was in an unusual situation Saturday. She had already secured a spot at state with her best time yet in the 200 individual medley, her 2:35.86 getting her 17th place in a competitive prelim round, one-hundredth of a second away from moving her to the finals.
However, she had made it to finals in the 100 breaststroke, 1.01 seconds from potentially going to state.
Coach Meghan Francone knew it was going to happen after seeing her swim the 200 medley.
“When these girls come together to do their best, that’s exactly what they do,” she said. “For Kelsey, the big thing is believing in herself. She trained well, tapered well and brought her A-game today.”
Coaches know best, and McDiffett notched her best time of the season, knocking off nearly three seconds in the process, a 1:18.38 more than enough for state, plus 11th place.
“We all just really wanted it even more today,” McDiffett said. “We were much more focused.”
Molly Neton had likewise already qualified for state Friday in the 100 backstroke, but she held back nothing in her final race of the afternoon — immediately after the 200 free relay — taking 10th with a time of 1:08.38.
“Both Molly and Kelsey brought to the pool today exactly what they needed,” Francone said. “We’re really proud of them.”
The time is nigh
Altogether, MCHS swimmers hit a new season best or personal best in nearly every race at the league meet.
Alexa Neton placed 13th in the finals of the 200 free race, but her prelim time of 2:23.86 proved to be the best of the season for the entire team. Molly Neton and Turner both hit personal bests in the 100 free, 10th and 18th respectively.
Turner noted that her teammates went a little crazy with shaving cream the night before the finals to fully maximize their speed, including shaving her back.
“I think that cut off a lot of time,” Turner joked.
Even events where swimmers went no further than the prelims held positives for the Bulldogs with personal bests time-wise in the 50 free (Turner, Siminoe and Carson Flint), 100 back (Alexa Neton, Jacobson), 100 breast (Siminoe, Chavez, Brenna Knez), 200 free (Chavez, Flint), 200 IM (Jones, Jade Holman, Beaver) and 500 free (Jaycee Holman, Jade Holman, Jacobson).
For those who will be moving on to state — which takes place starting Thursday in Thornton — the preparation won’t be slowing down and one last week of practice will ensure they’ll finish stronger than ever.
“It’ll mostly be about perfecting our techniques,” McDiffett said.
Whatever happens, coaches said athletes have already come far from where they were at the beginning of the season.
“All these girls, I’m really proud of what they brought,” Francone said.