Moffat County swimmers qualify for state in all relay events heading into league meet |

Moffat County swimmers qualify for state in all relay events heading into league meet

Members of the Moffat County girls swim team gather poolside during the Glenwood Springs Demon Invite on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. The team has qualified in all three state relays — 200-yard freestyle, 200 medley and 400 free.
Courtesy photo

The number of state-qualifying times keeps growing for the Moffat County girls swim team.

The MoCo aquatic athletes earned a state berth in the 400-yard freestyle relay during the Saturday, Jan. 28, Glenwood Springs Demon Invite.

After clocking in at 4 minutes, 23 seconds during the Aspen Invite a day earlier, Evie Gruben, Anna Richman, Megan Neton and Zoe Anfang cut nearly five seconds for a new best of 4:18.79, pushing past the 4:20 standard to make it to the 3A state championships.

The same group of girls has already qualified for the 200 free and 200 medley relays, and hitting the trifecta in the last meet of the regular season was exactly what coach Melany Neton was hoping to see as they prepare for the two-day Western Slope championships starting Friday, Feb. 3.

Moffat County swimmer Megan Neton swims butterfly during a practice at the Meeker Recreation Center.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

“There’s a little less pressure for them going into regionals with all three relays qualifying,” she said. “They’ll just try to make those times faster, and our goal this weekend will be to get a little better.”

The team is carrying momentum into regionals after Anfang took second in the 500 free and third in the breaststroke, while Gruben was third in the 100 free and Richman third in backstroke on Friday, Jan. 27, in Aspen.

At the larger Glenwood meet on Saturday, the team was fourth in both the 200 and 400 free relays, and Anfang earned bronze in the 200 individual medley. The 400 relay’s state time means the Bulldogs will be taking more girls to state, given that each athlete can only compete in four events.

Neton said that while Steamboat Springs freshman Anfang has qualified in a lot of races — 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly, 200 IM — she’ll have to choose two.

“Zoe’s 17th in state right now in the 500 free and 22nd in the 200 IM. I think those will be her two choices,” coach Neton said.

Gruben has also made the state cut in the 500 free, meaning she’ll likely swim that plus the three relays.

While the team’s focus was largely on the relay qualification this past weekend, Anfang was on the verge of making a state time in the 100 backstroke, with her 1:10.59 at Glenwood less than a second away from the mark. Likewise, Richman hit her best at 1:11.11. Anfang is also the member of the team closest to state in the 50 free.

At any rate, Neton will be taking more than four swimmers to state. Besides multiple alternates being allowed to attend, she’ll also need to decide who to rotate in for the lengthier relay.

“I’ll pull up our next-fastest girl in the 400 relay. We’ll see what happens this weekend to see who gets to go,” she said.

Many swimmers made a strong case for themselves during the Aspen and Glenwood events. MoCo senior Mary Willems hit her season bests in both the 50 free and 100 free at Glenwood, and Meeker senior Kate Lockwood had her best in the 100 free at Aspen.

Jayden Hill and Bella Short are also very much in consideration, Neton said, as both have been working outside of their comfort zones in recent medley relay races.

“Bella is doing the breaststroke and Jayden Hill is doing the fly. It’s challenging for her, but she’s really picked it up this season,” Neton said. ”They’re really getting more distance now. 100 used to be hard for them, and now they’re up to 3,100 yards per practice.”

Moffat County swimmers Mary Willems and Bella Short get warmed up together during a practice at the Meeker Recreation Center.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

This winter has been the first time Short, a sophomore, has ever attempted competitive swimming.

“The most challenging thing was getting used to it. It really has an impact on your body when you start swimming,” Short said. “It’s hard to get into and hard to keep up with it, but once you do, it’s really fun and a great experience.”

Short added that she’s OK with just being an alternate at state and appreciates that as a novice, she’s been able to go at her own pace.

“It’s a very good, balanced environment. I feel like I can talk to Melany about anything,” she said. “If I didn’t want to swim one race, I could just say, ‘Hey, I don’t feel good.’ The environment is very healthy and safe.”

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