St. Mary's Academy (Englewood)
has never been afraid to go up against the biggest and the best in the state.
The Wildcats proved that last winter at the Class 4A state swimming and diving championships. Despite being one of the state's smallest schools – at 254 students, St. Mary's Academy is the fifth smallest of those who field a swim program – the team finished sixth overall last February.
With a third classification being added to the state this winter, though, the Wildcats will drop to the 3A ranks along with 38 other schools, creating a more level field in the pool.
"We have 11 swimmers … but that does not deter us from going out there and doing everything we can," St. Mary's Academy coach Pari Shaghaghi said. "The girls know we're a small team but they're not afraid to go out there and give 100 percent every time, regardless of who we face."
The Wildcats will prove that Saturday when a handful of their swimmers travel to the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton to compete in the Colorado Coaches Invitational. Among the schools competing are defending 5A state champion Fairview (Boulder)
and 4A titlist Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)
"I think it's a great precursor to what the girls are going to (see) for us to race some of the really big 5A schools," Shaghaghi said. "It's great to swim against bigger schools with faster girls; that way we get some great competition. I think it's good to have it early in the season because it shows where we're at right now."
Of the top 10 teams in 4A a year ago, four of those are now competing in the 3A classification. Manitou Springs
placed fourth at state, while Aspen
and Glenwood Springs
placed eighth and ninth, respectively.
Manitou Springs captured a state title in the 200 free relay. St. Mary's Academy countered with its own state champion in Alex Reddington
, who claimed the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly.
Now a senior, Reddington has already committed to swim for the University of Wisconsin and is coming off a trip to the junior nationals.
"Every year she's gotten better and better. She keeps making huge strides that I didn't even think were possible," Shaghaghi said. "I think she's beyond motivated to come out on top again this year as a senior. She has such high expectations."
The Wildcats return four state qualifiers off last year's team. The squad placed fourth in the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay, with Reddington, junior Isa Faddick
and sophomore Lillianna Brooks
all returning. Brooks also placed seventh in the 500 free.
Shaghaghi said even with the team moving to a lower classification, she doesn't want to think about the possibility of chasing a state championship. She wants her girls focusing on each meet as it approaches.
"We're just going to go out there and swim our hardest," she said. "Of course, we want that state title, but we're not going to think about it until that day comes."
Reddington isn't the only multi-state champion back in the pool this winter. Windsor's Morgan Friesen
, who has committed to Louisville, is the reigning champion in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
Valor Christian will have to defend its title without the departed Brooke Stenstrom, who won a pair of individual titles and a relay championship and is now at Stanford. The Eagles bring back a number of swimmers, though, from a team that finished 68 points ahead of second-place Evergreen
The Cougars return their own state champion in 500 free titlist Kate McDonald
. Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado Springs)
, which placed third, has half of its winning 400 free relay back as well. Heritage (Littleton)
, which placed seventh in 5A, moves to 4A and has defending 100 free champion Kylie Andrews.
In 5A, Fairview senior Brittney Beetcher claimed state titles in the 200 free and 500 free last winter in helping the Knights edge Regis Jesuit (Aurora)
and Fossil Ridge (Fort Collins)
for the team title.
Regis Jesuit claimed the 200 and 400 free relay titles and had four underclassmen on those relays. Fossil Ridge had only one senior on its winning 200 medley relay team, and Bailey Kovac (100 breast) and Coleen Gillilan (100 butterfly) were individual winners.
Arapahoe's Delaney Smith won the won the 200 IM as a sophomore. Girls Swimming & Diving
Defending State Champion:
Feb. 9-10 at VMAC in ThorntonReturning All-State Swimmers:
Brittney Beetcher, Sr., Fairview (200 free, 500 free); Jennae Frederick, Sr., Regis Jesuit (200 free relay); Coleen Gillilan, So., Fossil Ridge (200 medley relay, 100 butterfly); Leslie-Ann Knee, Sr., Fossil Ridge (200 medley relay); Bailey Kovac, Sr., Fossil Ridge (100 breast); Isabella Schultze, Sr., Regis Jesuit (400 free relay); Delaney Smith
, Jr., Arapahoe (Centennial)
(200 IM); Samantha Smith, Sr., Regis Jesuit (400 free relay); Bayley Stewart, Jr., Fossil Ridge (200 medley relay); Meriel Upton, So., Regis Jesuit (200 free relay, 400 free relay).
Defending State Champion:
Valor ChristianState Championships:
Feb. 10-11 @ EPIC in Fort CollinsReturning All-State Swimmers:
Kylie Andrews, Jr., Heritage (100 free); Morgan Friesen, Sr., Windsor (200 IM, 100 breast); Madison Hoehn
, Sr., Valor Christian (200 medley relay); Kate McDonald, Sr., Evergreen (500 free); Maggie Tibbitt
, Sr., Cheyenne Mountain (400 free relay); Cat Wright
, Jr., Cheyenne Mountain (400 free relay).Class 3A
Defending State Champion:
Feb. 10-11 at VMAC in ThorntonReturning All-State Swimmers: Emily Dolloff-Holt
, Sr., Manitou Springs (200 free relay); Sydney Dolloff-Holt
, So., Manitou Springs (200 free relay); Alex Reddington, Sr., St. Mary's Academy (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly).