Aspen High girls swim team heads to state eyeing history
Aspen High School senior Kennidy Quist knows the feeling of entering the state swim meet at the top. This weekend, she hopes to finally finish there, as well.
“Last year, I did go in first and didn’t necessarily succeed to the extent I wanted to,” Quist said. “I’m hoping for my senior year I will be able to win at least one, hopefully two, state titles. And I’m incredibly excited for the team, as well.”
Quist, who will swim for Harvard University, is the centerpiece of the AHS girls swim team. The Skiers will compete Friday (prelims) and Saturday (finals) at the Class 3A state swim meet, held at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.
Expectations will be high for Aspen, which is competing in 3A this season, coming down from 4A (this is the first season there has been a 3A classification for girls swimming in the state). The Skiers enter the weekend the top-ranked team in 3A, ahead of No. 2 St. Mary’s Academy and No. 3 Glenwood Springs.
Along with that first No. 1 ranking in program history, both Quist and sophomore Davy Brown enter the state meet ranked No. 1 in two events each, while two of the team’s relays enter as the favorites, as well.
“Right now we are ranked No. 1, which I didn’t expect, and I’m excited about it because we have so few numbers,” AHS swim coach Kathleen Callahan said. “I’m just really excited the girls are swimming well. I don’t think we’ve seen the best from Davy or Kennidy or Emily (Driscoll) or Hannah (Freeman) yet.”
One of the smallest teams in the state with 11 swimmers, eight are qualified for the 3A meet. Between illness and poor weather, the season got off to a slow start for the Skiers. Their first meet wasn’t held until Jan. 20 in Aspen, and it’s been rapid-fire meets in the three-plus weeks since.
Most recently, the Skiers competed at the league championship meet in Grand Junction, where they took sixth out of 11 teams, with Glenwood Springs edging Durango for the league title. Aspen’s low finish was only due to its relatively low numbers — even with only 11 swimmers on the roster, they won six total events. Quist easily won the 100-yard freestyle and 50-yard freestyle, while Brown, who looks to replace Quist next year as the team’s star, won both the 200-yard IM and 100-yard backstroke.
Aspen also won league titles in the 200-yard medley relay (Brown, Quist, Freeman, Driscoll) and the 400-yard freestyle relay, with the same four.
“It’s been a long road and things have happened and lots of setbacks, but I’m feeling ready, I’m feeling trained,” Brown said of her second trip to state. “The Speedos, we are a really fast club, and (coach Gordon Gerson) has just been with us through so much, so we are kind of used to being No. 1 in relays. I feel like we can just use that to push ourselves.”
The short high school season hasn’t impacted swimmers like Quist and Brown, who train basically year round, much of it with the local club team. The drop to 3A should especially put the Skiers in a good position for a state championship, which would be a first for the program, whether as a team or individually.
Quist was close last year, finishing second in 4A in both the 50 free and 100 free. She lost each race to Valor Christian’s Brooke Stenstrom, who now swims for Stanford.
“To culminate my career with a win would be an ideal way to leave this season,” Quist said. “Last year I was in the same position as now and I didn’t come out in first. So it’s very exciting, but it doesn’t mean you have won yet. There is still a lot of work to be done.”
Also qualified for the state meet are Aspen’s Taylor Pattillo, Abby Easterling, Lilly Easterling and Lelia Arthur.
The Skiers finished eighth as a team in 4A in 2016, and seventh in 2015.
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Katie Fox said the work required to earn the certification was equal to that of earning a second master’s degree, all while holding down a full-time teaching position.