FORT COLLINS, Colo. —
The ear-to-ear smile and heartfelt tears said it all for Missy Franklin
The Olympian from Regis Jesuit (Aurora)
, who collected five medals at last year's Summer Games, has never wavered in the stance of how her high school team means as much to her as anything else she has accomplished in her remarkable, yet still fledgling, career.
For the first time, the 17-year old Franklin experienced doubts this year whether she would compete for the Raiders.
There were grumblings of backlash, as some wondered if it might be time for such a highly-decorated competitor to step aside to allow more opportunities for other swimmers whose Olympics are, essentially, the state finals.
Yet Franklin always has been a Regis Raider at heart. And on Saturday she left another lasting impression in her final high school meet.
Franklin added two more state records to her impressive collection while leading the Raiders to victories in both freestyle relays. And, in the end, Franklin was able to take a celebratory leap into the water at the Edora Pool and Ice Center with her teammates and coaches as Regis brought home its second 5A title in three years.
"The one thing I hate doing is disappointing people. That's the one thing I can't live with myself if I do that," Franklin said. "I knew that if I did do high school swimming, I didn't want to disappoint parents who wanted to see their kids be state champions, or kids who wanted to be state champions. I didn't want people to think I was swimming for the wrong reasons. That's why I tried to make my intentions so clear when I was swimming that I just wanted to swim my senior year of high school and be with my girls."
Franklin erased two records held by former Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village)
standout Bonnie Brandon, winning the 500 freestyle with a time of 4 minutes, 41.72 seconds. That mark eclipsed Brandon's mark, set last year, of 4:43.52.
Franklin was even more impressive while setting a new standard in the individual medley, touching the wall with a mark of 1:56.85 that set a new national high school standard. That time also topped the record of 1:58.22 Franklin set during the preliminaries Friday (Brandon previously held the record of 1:59.09.)
Franklin caps her prep career with the maximum eight individual state titles and, after leading the Raiders to the two relay victories Saturday, she also owns four relay titles. Franklin will head to the University of California as the Colorado record-holder in six of the eight individual swim events.
"I don't really know what to say and I'm totally speechless," an emotional Franklin said afterward. "Now I finally realize why I did it — being with my girls in that last moment and crying and knowing it was going to be my final time swimming with all of them and having a Regis cap on my head. That's why I did it. Just to see all the girls there this weekend race their hearts out, it means the world to me. I told myself I wouldn't cry until we at least made it to dinner, but I definitely didn't make that curfew."
While Franklin clearly was the fan favorite and the focus of the myriad cameras poolside, the finals featured several other standout performances. Loveland
senior Michal Bower
made history by becoming the first Colorado diver to win four state titles. Rhianna Williams
of Fossil Ridge (Fort Collins)
, competing in her final swim meet before joining the track and field team at the University of Utah, successfully defended her state titles in the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle.
Williams also led Fossil Ridge to a victory in the medley relay and impressively kept pace with Franklin during the anchor leg of the 400 freestyle relay as the SaberCats finished second.
"Freshman year, I wouldn't have ever imagined I would have been able to win twice," Williams said. "It's been exciting racing (Franklin) the past two days. She pushed all of us to do better than we could have imagined."