Lillie Boggs continues to shine for swim club after age-group championships

Aspen Swim Club athlete Lillie Boggs, 13, had another impressive showing this past weekend at the 14-and-under state championships in Thornton. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times).
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

At 1,650 yards, the mile swim is one grueling race. Even Lillie Boggs doesn’t know why she likes it, as few are up for the sort of suffering that comes with such a long event.

Maybe she likes it because she’s so good at it. The 13-year-old Aspen Swim Club athlete has the ability to compartmentalize her mind during a long race like that, and mentioned she has a tendency to sing to herself when things get extra difficult.

“She is just a great distance swimmer. She can go out and go hard and keep going and keep going and keep going,” Aspen Swim Club coach Gordon Gerson said. “I’ve never had anyone that can just go out and get after it and stay after it. She won the mile by almost three lengths. She lapped everyone in the field. Lapped several of them twice.”

Boggs, who is in the eighth grade, continues to stand out as a distance swimmer. Her skills were on display once again this past weekend, when she was one of a handful of Aspen swimmers to compete in the Colorado Swimming Short Course Age Group Championships, the state’s premier 14-and-under competition.

Held Feb. 22 to 24 at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton, Boggs led the relatively small Aspen Swim Club to a 20th-place finish as a team. She won both the 500 free and the mile, with the latter really being the swim that stood out.

She easily won the mile with a time of 17 minutes, 22.62 seconds, a 41.20-second improvement over her seed time, which she recorded in this same meet last winter, when she finished sixth.

“It’s cool to be able to do it, and I like to do it,” Boggs said of the mile. “I had a great meet and I had so much fun doing it. I have such supportive friends and a great coach, obviously. It was just a lot of fun.”

How good was her swim? Well, it ranks as the eighth best time in Colorado’s history for 13-year-old female swimmers, just ahead of 2007 Pan American Games gold medalist Jessica Rodriguez. That list is led by Boulder’s Haley Rowley, who swims for Colorado State University and was the 2018 Mountain West Conference swimmer of the year. She had a time of 16:55.55.

Five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin ranks sixth in the state, having swam the mile in 17:15.14 when she was 13.

“I look up to her a lot,” Boggs said of Franklin, who retired from the sport back in December at age 23. “She’s one of my idols. I think it’s really exciting for me to be up there with her times.”

Like Franklin, Boggs’ mile time was done at altitude. If you adjust for the elevation, which takes 23 seconds off the times, Franklin’s 13-year-old time would have been 16:52.14, faster than that of Rowley. Boggs’ altitude-adjusted time would be a touch under 17 minutes, making her fourth all time at that age in Colorado, behind only Franklin, Rowley and Andrea Lehner.

Boggs was on a similar list as a 12-year-old, when her time of 18:03.82 was fourth all-time in the state for that age group. Rodriguez holds that record.

“Keep in mind this is a 14-and-under event and she is only 13,” Gerson said. “Her swim on Sunday, the only way to describe it was spectacular.”

Gerson also pointed out that Boggs’ mile time on Sunday would have been good enough for second place in the 2019 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships, held only a week prior. Mia Wood, who swims for the School of Mines, won with a time of 17:11.56, while Colorado Mesa’s Isabelle Hansson was second in 17:27.39, or about five seconds slower than Boggs.

Boggs would have made the B cut for NCAA Division II nationals.

Boggs won the 500 free at state this past weekend with a time of 5:07.89, also easily outdistancing her competition. She even finished sixth in both the 200 breast and 400 IM.

Aspen swimmer Bennett Jones had a top-10 finish, as well, finishing seventh in the 500 free, while William Jones was 10th in the 200 free.

“The person I’d say who probably had the second-best meet behind Lillie was William Jones. He just keeps getting better and better. He scored in almost every one of his events,” Gerson said. “It was a nice meet for him.”

Gerson, who will step down as the coach of the Aspen Swim Club after sectionals later this month in Phoenix, said Boggs’ mile swim was about as good of a way to go out as he could envision.

“When a kid is performing at a level like Lillie is, your worry is early peaking and can she keep going with it, that sort of thing,” Gerson said. “She’s still got a lot of room for improvement. I’m definitely not leaving the cupboard bare for the next coaches.”