Swimmers head to state championships
When the fall semester ended, the Moffat County girls swim team lost senior Katie Gainor to an early graduation.
She was a part of all three state-qualifying relay teams, but after graduation, she wasn’t allowed to compete.
As the Bulldogs head to the Class 4A State Championships in Loveland today, three swimmers, senior Alyssa Pierson, junior Vanessa Murray and sophomore Meghan Innes, have filled in to take Gainor’s place.
“Those three have stepped up to fill the void Katie left,” coach Jennifer Zimmerman said. “Losing Katie could have been a blow to our program, but those three have kept the morale high.”
Murray is the veteran of the three swimmers. This is her third state meet, and she has been a freestyle specialist for the Bulldogs. She was already on the two freestyle relays, but the Bulldogs needed a butterfly swimmer for the 200-yard medley relay.
“The freestyle has been my stroke, but I like the butterfly, too,” she said.
Murray has fought shoulder problems since last year.
“For the first time since my freshman year, I’m swimming faster in the freestyle,” she said. “But the butterfly is nice because it doesn’t affect my shoulder.”
Pierson, a senior from Steam–boat Springs, suffered a season-ending injury last year. In her final year, she earned a spot on the 400-freestyle relay team.
“We knew there was a spot open once Katie left,” Pierson said. “You can’t replace her, but we did the best to try to get to her level.”
This is Innes’ first year to swim since sixth grade.
“I wanted to stay in shape for golf, so I decided to go out,” said the state-qualifying golfer from last year.
She had to qualify that statement for her laughing teammates.
“Be quiet,” she said to her fellow swimmers. “You really do have to be in shape to play golf.”
Innes did more than stay in shape; she developed into a fast freestyle swimmer.
As of Wednesday, the freestyle relay teams weren’t decided for the Bulldogs. Some combination of Innes, Murray, Pierson, senior Ashleigh McDonald and sophomores Kelsey Conci and Caitlin Conci will make up the two relays.
“The split differences between some of our girls are a matter of one-hundredth of a second,” Zimmerman said. “We probably won’t know what those teams will be until Friday.”
One near certainty at the meet is that the Conci twins will have an opportunity to get into the state finals Saturday. Kelsey is seeded third with a time of 24.8 seconds in the 50 freestyle. She’s also 11th in the 100 freestyle.
“It’s time to walk the walk,” Kelsey said. “I’m in some elite company.”
Caitlin is seeded sixth in the 100 backstroke.
“We have a chance to set five school records,” Zimmerman said. “And a Conci will be involved in each one of those.”
The Concis are both in the 200-medley relay that is seeded 15th. Less than a second separates 15th place from eighth place.
“We’ll have to improve in the medley to get to finals,” Zimmerman said. “But the girls have had a great week, and I think they can do it.”
The swimmers with the top 14 times for each event in the preliminary round move into the finals.
The swimmers with the top seven times swim in the finals, the next seven swim in the consolation finals.
The other two relay teams are ranked in the 20s.
“We have some drastic im—-provements to get those ev-
—-ents into the finals,” Zim–merman said. “But the 200-freestyle team could set a new school record if they swim well.”
The preliminary rounds start at 9 a.m. today at Mountain View High School.
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