Aspen High girls swim team sitting strong, confident entering the holiday break
The Aspen High School girls swim team is reminded of its Class 3A state title from a year ago on a daily basis. Gone from that squad are all-American Kennidy Quist, who now swims for Harvard, and Hannah Freeman, who stepped away from swimming this winter in what would have been her senior season.
Still, the remaining swimmers don’t lack star power, and that reminder of what’s possible is fueling them.
“This group of girls desperately wants to defend our state title,” said AHS swim coach Kathleen Callahan, last year’s 3A coach of the year. “Every day in practice they look up at our banner at the pool that says ‘state champions’, and it’s like we want that again. So I’m really excited for this year.”
Aspen heads into the holiday break feeling really good about itself. The season started earlier this month at a smaller meet hosted by Glenwood Springs High School that pitted AHS against much larger teams. Then came a lighthearted relay meet in Grand Junction before last weekend’s Montrose Invitational, their first prelim-final meet of the season.
In a combined varsity/junior varsity format, the Skiers finished third overall, with only larger schools such as Montrose and Grand Junction finishing ahead of them. Because of the team’s small size, AHS rarely factors into the larger, early-season meets.
“For us to come in third overall is huge and the confidence booster, you can see it in their faces,” Callahan said. “The girls are really working hard. They seem to be really dedicated. And this year we have a group of girls that are so sweet, so kind. They support each other. It’s just an amazing team this year.”
Aspen is led by its dynamic duo of senior Emily Driscoll and junior Davy Brown, both key pieces of last year’s state championship team. Callahan expects Brown to win each time she gets in the pool, and she pretty much does. Brown won both the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke at the Montrose invite.
Driscoll isn’t far behind in that regard. In Montrose, she won the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard butterfly. None of the races were remotely close.
“With Davy, I fully expect her to win her events. She has an Olympic-level backstroke. It’s the most beautiful backstroke I’ve ever seen,” Callahan said. “This year Emily suddenly got good in the backstroke. So she is right behind Davy in that. So for me as a coach, it’s like what do I swim these girls in? I don’t want to put them head to head.”
Both Brown and Driscoll have already locked in state-qualifying times, as has junior Taylor Pattillo in the 500 freestyle. The Skiers are also a lock for their relays, led by Brown and Driscoll. Freshman Emily Kinney is among the early favorites to be the third member of those relays, with the fourth spot completely up for grabs.
Aspen will need a handful of swimmers to step up if it wants to factor into the state title hunt yet again. Callahan believes there are plenty of options, including sophomore Sophia Perry, who is returning from injury, and standout freshman Carolina Robinson. Abby and Lilly Easterling are also in the mix.
“It’s going to be a race for who gets to be on the relays,” Callahan said. “The race for that fourth girl is really amazing. It’s really fun. The girls are stepping up and being very competitive in practice, very competitive in swimming, because they all want to be on that relay team.”
Aspen is off until a Jan. 13 meet at Grand Junction. The Skiers host their lone home meet of the season on Jan. 19 at the Aspen Recreation Center pool. The Western Slope League championships are scheduled for Feb. 2-3, with the 3A state championships scheduled for Feb. 8-10 in Thornton.
In the initial swim team rankings of the season, released Wednesday by CHSAANow.com, the Skiers are No. 10 in 3A.
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In the 50-mile race, three-time Olympian and Aspen bred Simi Hamilton bombed down Fanny Hill to capture the overall men’s title. Hamilton, who retired from professional cross-country skiing earlier this year, completed the race in a time of 4 hours, 17 minutes, 19 seconds. Nicole Tittensor, from Axtell, Utah, was the first woman to finish the 50-mile race.