Aspen High girls swim team heads to state as defending 3A champions | AspenTimes.com

Aspen High girls swim team heads to state as defending 3A champions

The numbers paint a grim picture for the Aspen High School girls swim team in its state title defense this weekend. Still, that's no reason to be pessimistic.

"Probably not, but maybe. You never know. You got to be positive," AHS junior Davy Brown said about the team's chances. "I guess there is some sense of pressure, considering we won last year. But I think we are really just excited to go out there and try our hardest."

The Class 3A state swim meet gets underway Thursday afternoon at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton. In the same pool a year ago, Aspen won its first state title in swimming. The 2017 season was the first in which the state of Colorado had a 3A classification for girls swimming.

Aspen's superstar from a year ago, Kennidy Quist, now swims for Harvard. Also gone is standout Hannah Freeman, who decided to retire from competitive swimming. Without the numbers, AHS coach Kathleen Callahan — the reigning 3A coach of the year — has a hard time seeing things add up to another championship.

"We don't have the depth this year to keep the title, and that's OK," Callahan said. "The girls still have a great spirit knowing we won it the first time we've ever had a 3A division. So that is something that will always be part of our history."

Still, the Skiers expect to make plenty of noise at state. What they do have is Brown, the reigning 3A champion in the 100-yard backstroke. She also took second last year in the 200-yard individual medley and was part of two state title relay teams (200-yard medley, 400-yard freestyle).

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AHS also has senior Emily Driscoll, who will be in the mix for top-five finishes.

"It's my last states, so I'm very excited. Every year I feel like I've been improving," Driscoll said. "I'm just excited to see how this year goes. We've been working hard in the pool and I'm excited to see how the rest of the team does as well."

Aspen enters the state meet ranked No. 6 as a team in 3A by CHSAANow.com. Longmont enters as the team favorite, followed by No. 2 Pueblo County, No. 3 Centaurus, No. 4 Kent Denver and No. 5 St. Mary's Academy. Glenwood Springs is No. 8.

The Skiers finished the 2017 meet with 209 points, holding off runner-up St. Mary's Academy (187) and third-place Glenwood Springs (173) for the state title.

Brown is the best bet to add any individual titles in 2018. She enters the meet seeded second in the 200-yard IM, roughly a half second behind Longmont's Lucille Matheson. Brown is seeded fifth in the 100-yard backstroke, the event she won a year ago, while Driscoll is seeded fourth. Although, sometimes Callahan is OK ignoring the numbers when making predictions.

"We have some very high-end talent with Davy, which I really expect her to win her events," Callahan said. "She is very competitive when she needs to be, so that's awesome. I think Emily will get in the top five."

The Skiers should be among the favorites in both the 200-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle relays. Both relays are swam by the foursome of Brown, Driscoll, freshman Emily Kinney and junior Taylor Pattillo. The Skiers are seeded second in the 200-yard freestyle and fifth in the 200-yard medley.

Aspen also has a 400-yard freestyle relay team competing. Those swimmers include Sophia Perry, Carolina Robinson, and twins Abby and Lilly Easterling. Ashley Sprenger is also going to state as an alternate.

"Our relays are always amazing," Brown said. "I love our team and our dynamic and those relays are really when we get to show everyone else what we are like. It's my favorite part of the meet. I love racing with the girls."

Kinney and Pattillo also will compete in a few individual events. Kinney is seeded seventh in the 100-yard breastroke.

If the Skiers can't defend their state title this weekend, there is belief they'll have it back in the future. With a lot of youth and a strong middle school group coming up, depth isn't expected to be an issue in the coming seasons.

"In the next couple of years we will have that depth again so we can get back on top," Callahan said. "What we are most excited for is all the girls last weekend dropped their times, and as a coach that is a sign you are doing a good job and your kids are doing a good job. I think we are still going to see more time drops."

Prelims get underway at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, while finals start at the same time on Friday.

acolbert@aspentimes.com