Moffat County swimmers post multiple state-qualifying times during breakthrough meet |

Moffat County swimmers post multiple state-qualifying times during breakthrough meet

From left, Evie Gruben, Zoe Anfang, Megan Neton, and Anna Richman gather poolside at the Grand Junction Invite on Saturday, Jan. 14. The group of Craig and Steamboat Springs girls qualified for two state relays among other events as part of a particularly productive meet.
Courtesy Photo

At this time last year, the Moffat County girls swim team was on the brink of qualifying relays for state, only to narrowly miss that mark in the final weeks.

In contrast, the team has gone well past that standard this year, and the swimmers are racking up more achievements by the week.

After dual meets this weekend, the Bulldogs have multiple swimmers headed for February’s state championships with both the 200-yard medley and 200 freestyle relay teams posting state-qualifying times.

The Grand Junction Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14, was the site of the girls’ best meet so far, as Craig’s Megan Neton and Steamboat Springs’ Zoe Anfang, Evie Gruben and Anna Richman hit the relays especially hard.

“It was the day the team fully bonded, and we were singing and dancing beforehand and came together like a real team,” Anfang said.

The locale didn’t hurt either.

“Grand Junction has a really nice pool and a high-tech filtration system, so it’s one of the faster pools we swim at,” Neton said. “Our relay team really got in the mentality that today we could do it and we did.”

The medley began the day, and with Richman starting in the backstroke, Anfang doing the breaststroke, Neton the butterfly and Gruben anchoring with the freestyle, the result was sixth place at 2 minutes, 7.31 seconds. Besides surging past the 2:12 needed for state qualification, the group also outperformed themselves from the day before at the Delta invite.

In Grand Junction, the same foursome earned another spot at state as they trimmed nearly 3 seconds off their previous time in the 200 free relay to finish eighth in 1:54.37.

The results were a relief after the Bulldogs came so close last winter.

“This year I knew for sure we were going to make it, and it was just a matter of when,” Neton said. “Last year, we had to work really hard, but when it came down to it, we just didn’t make it. This year already feels more successful than last … it’s a big accomplishment to make state.”

Neton noted that the Steamboat athletes have been a great addition to the Moffat County team, and the three Sailor freshmen have repeatedly made waves. After scoring state-qualifying times in the Bulldogs’ first meet last month, Anfang went on to qualify in the 100 breast, 200 free and 500 free leading up to this weekend.

Besides winning the 200 freestyle in Delta and bringing her previous best down to 2:10.89 in the process, she also nearly hit a state time in the 50 free in Grand Junction and shattered her personal best in the 100 free with a time of 59.52.

“For a freshman that’s impressive,” coach Melany Neton said.

Anfang has been swimming competitively since age 7 and was ready to take on the challenges of a CHSAA team.

“I didn’t really know what to expect going into it, but I heard from a lot of my friends who did it last year that it’s super fun and a really great time,” she said. “I agree with all of that — the girls on this team are great.”

Anfang’s Steamboat colleagues are also making their mark in solo races. Gruben already hit a state time in the 500 free, but she was close behind Anfang in Delta’s 200 free, placing third with Richman fourth. Anfang also took fifth in Delta’s 100 backstroke, with Richman sixth.

Nearly all of the team members reached their best times yet in the 50 free event or the 100 free in the past weekend, if not both.

“A lot of the girls had good cuts all weekend long,” coach Neton said. “Delta went so well that they were already excited, and that enthusiasm carried over into the second meet.”

One of the most notable improvements from one day to the other was in the 400 relay. After cutting five seconds off their seed time in Delta, Jayden Hill, Mary Willems, Bella Short and Kate Lockwood chopped another six seconds off their in Grand Junction for a new season-best at 5:30.34.

Moffat County swimmer Mary Willems competes in the 100-yard freestyle event during a 2021 meet. Jayden Hill, Willems, Bella Short and Kate Lockwood showed continued improvement at the meet in Grand Junction on Saturday, Jan. 14.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

As one of only two seniors, Willems is a team captain in her second year with the Bulldogs.

“I feel like last year was more of a fun thing, and this year I’ve really improved my strokes and I feel stronger,” she said.

MoCo swimming only has two weeks before the conference championships — during which the Bulldogs will compete in meets hosted by Summit, Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

“We’ll be focusing on finishes, and starts and turns, and all the little things to cut some more time and just keeping those down,” coach Neton said.

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