Moffat County girls swim team sees success with wins, state times to start season

Moffat County swimmer Mary Willems competes in the 100-yard freestyle event during a 2021 meet. The Bulldog girls swim team competed in its first event of the season on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

The roster keeps shifting and the schedule began later than expected this winter, but Moffat County girls swimming is making up for lost time.

The Bulldogs took two individual wins during the Gunnison Cowboy Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 10, and have already staked out their spot at the state championships in two races.

The team has a new configuration of athletes and is handling a lack of a home pool in Craig. Following the closure of the campus pool in 2018, the Bulldogs had been working out of the Meeker Recreation Center. However, coach Melany Neton said the squad has been not only practicing in Meeker this year, but also in Steamboat Springs with help from Charlie Coates.

“Old Town Hot Springs is being very generous and given us pool time for free,” she said. “Charlie used to coach for Sea Sharks and is just great to work with.”

Another factor of this school year came with a late start to the season.

“I was pretty nervous with the later start and the four-day week, with kids not getting out until 4:13, but it’s been just fine really,” coach Neton said. “The Meeker Rec Center made accommodations for us with their hours.”

Though it’s nothing new for the long-established MoCo team to bring in talent from other towns, Neton has a trio of Steamboat freshmen this season, in addition to five girls from Craig and one from Meeker. With several girls from last season opting not to compete this year, things came together a little differently than the coach was expecting.

“I was a little nervous because we have to have a certain number from Moffat County to have the team, but luckily a couple of girls decided to step up and compete,” she said.

MoCo senior Mary Willems; juniors Megan Neton, Ruby Short and Natalie Womble; and sophomores Bella Short and Jayden Hill are joined by Meeker senior Kate Lockwood and Steamboat’s Zoe Anfang, Evie Gruben and Anna Richman. The roster is a mix of returning athletes and first-timers.

“We’re working on the climate and building friendships in combining girls from three different towns,” coach Neton said. “Without the Meeker girls, it doesn’t feel right anymore because we’ve been with them in the water for so long. The Steamboat girls fit right in, just a group of super-nice ladies who really enjoy swimming.”

The Bulldogs’ first meet was originally supposed to be on Dec. 2 in Glenwood Springs, but they missed out due to bad weather. Though it was a week later, the Gunnison meet went well for the team, particularly for the novices.

“It gave them more time to learn how to do flip turns, starts and underwater techniques for each stroke,” Neton said. “We’re just really working on stroke technique and breaking down the strokes and helping them with all the aspects of it — the kicks, the positioning in the water, their arms, the breathing, putting it all together.”

Anfang won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 1 minute, 7.34 seconds, with Gruben taking the gold in the 500 freestyle at 6:19.04. Anfang also came in second in the 200 individual medley, clocking in at 2:27.38, and her times in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley qualify her for state in February.

In other events, Richman placed fifth in the 100 backstroke and seventh in the 200 IM, Hill was 19th in the 100 back, and Bella Short took 28th in her first 100 free race. In a packed field in the 50 free, Megan Neton led at 18th, followed by Lockwood in 27th, Hill 37th and Willems 41st.

In the 200 free relay, the Bulldogs placed fourth, while the mix of Richman, Anfang, Megan Neton and Lockwood took fifth in the 200 medley. A secondary medley group of Hill, Ruby Short, Gruben and Willems took 13th. The Dogs also earned eighth in the 400 free relay.

The team narrowly missed state last season in the 200 free, but with swimmers already showing their capabilities, coach Neton expects they can take a full group in one relay race, if not more.

With their early marks set, she is expecting the group to keep improving, with the Summit Invite scheduled for this weekend to round out the calendar year.

“I’m just very grateful that we get to continue to have a swim team. It’s a life sport that you can continue to do for the rest of your life,” she said.

More Like This, Tap A Topic

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.