As the top swimming program among the Denver Prep League schools,
swimmers always feel as if they have a collective chip on their shoulders whenever the Angels have an opportunity to take on the powerhouse programs from the neighboring suburbs.
This year, that drive to prove something burns a little more hotly for seniors Reed Mathews
and Andrew Hull
Each of the Angels standouts have their sights set on the Class 5A state finals, and for different reasons both Mathews and Hull are hoping to make amends for previous disappointments on the state's biggest stage.
For Mathews, the butterfly and individual medley specialist is eying a berth in at least one finals heat after missing out last season on the sort of fractional time shortage that is a cruel reality of the sport. Hull, for his part, has developed into one of the top divers in the state despite having never once entered the state finals with a clean bill of health.
Mathews and Hull, both Division I recruits, will begin their respective quests toward a strong senior stretch run when the Angels pit their talents against the state's best Saturday at the annual Dick Rush Memorial Coaches Invitational.
The meet will feature some of the top programs in Colorado, including Highlands Ranch
, Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village)
and Regis Jesuit (Aurora)
"We like to compete, and obviously those programs have been around and at the top of their game for years," East coach D. Ray Craft said. "Any time we can come in with a little highlight of what the inner city can do, that's what we want to do."
Mathews, who will continue his swimming career at Old Dominion, has qualified for state in the butterfly and the individual medley in each of the past two seasons, yet it was the result of his effort in the butterfly at state last year that has spurred the senior's motivation this season.
During the preliminary heats, Mathews finished ninth, just .04 seconds behind the eighth and final slot for the championship heat. Despite the disappointment, Mathews still rebounded the next day to win the consolation heat and place ninth overall.
"Every time I think back to that, it just motivates me to swim harder and train harder to try and make that final heat," Mathews said. "If I had to swim again the same day it might have been different, but I had a night to sleep it off and get back into it."
Hull, a University of Indiana recruit, also is eying an improved finish at state, particularly now that he has overcome several health issues.
Hull already has a pair of Top 10 finishes at state on his resume', including a ninth-place finish as a sophomore in 2010 and a sixth-place finish last year, despite a series of health issues. Hull entered his first state meet battling an illness, and last year he was hampered by a torn ligament in his foot that required surgery and nagged him the entire season.
"My freshman, sophomore, and junior year I was sick and hurt," Hull said. "I didn't have very much power last year and it was tough to get back into it. I did real well, considering. This year, I've been healthy and feeling good."