Aspen Speedos strong at zones | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Speedos strong at zones

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Team Aspen made Team Colorado a winner at last week’s Western Zones Championships in Grand Junction.

Speedos swimmers Kelcie Gerson, Claire Collier, Charlie Mechling and Max Bryant appeared to be right at home in the familiar Colorado Mesa University pool, standing out in a field of more than 700 swimmers from 13 states. Gerson and Collier each picked up backstroke wins, and Bryant and Mechling were top-five fixtures, helping propel the host state to victory with 1,543 points.

A squad from northern California (1,536.5) settled for second, while a group of swimmers from California and Nevada finished a distant third.

“It literally came down to the last race. I’m excited for the kids that they were involved with a team this big at a meet like that,” Aspen coach Gordon Gerson said Tuesday. “We had only ever sent one kid to zones, but we had five this time. We had never scored before, but they scored a bunch last week. It was another step up for these kids.”

The highlight of the meet came in the 100-meter backstroke final, where Kelcie Gerson and Collier went stroke for stroke as they powered to the wall. Collier wound up taking first with a time of 1 minute, 8.40 seconds – just .07 ahead of her teammate.

“I gave the girls a little pep talk and told them to go get (first and second). They both really went after it,” coach Gerson said. “Claire has such great starts and turns so she opened up a little lead, but Kelcie was catching up to her and catching up to her. She didn’t quite get there. It was such a great race.

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“It was nice to see Claire really step up in a big event. She had her best time in prelims, then whacked another second off that in the finals. I always knew she had it in her, but she just had to decide she had it in her. … It was really awesome to see Aspen kids go 1-2 at a meet of this magnitude.”

Kelcie Gerson trailed for most of the 200 backstroke, too, but she didn’t run out of pool this time. She overtook Connor Tarver, of Wyoming, about 5 meters from the wall and pulled out a .19-second victory.

The effort highlighted a standout week for Gerson, who also finished second in both the mile and the 550-meter open swim, scored on multiple relays and took eighth in the 200 butterfly.

While he was disqualified in arguably his best event, the 200 IM, Bryant had an impressive showing. He wound up second in the 400 IM, third in the 200 butterfly, fourth in the 200 breaststroke and fifth in both the mile and open-water race.

He also teamed with three other Colorado swimmers to win the 15-16 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.

“This was a solid way to end the season for him,” Gordon Gerson said.

Despite competing in arguably the meet’s deepest and most talented age group, Mechling stood out among the other 13- and 14-year-olds. She was fifth in the 200 backstroke, sixth in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 200 IM.

“Colorado alone had 29 premier swimmers in that age group,” Gerson said. “Charlie did very well.

“Hopefully, they’ll take the experience they gained from this meet and move forward. And this should give the other kids confidence that they, too, can compete against some of the best.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com