Aspen Swim Club ends season with strong performances coast to coast
It’s been a whirlwind month for the Aspen Swim Club. The Speedos recently finished their long-course season with a multitude of swimmers competing at five high-profile meets around the country. Below are the highlights with comments from head coach Gordon Gerson.
Shea Card comes up big at zones
Gerson wanted to start with the biggest highlight among the five meets, and that was Basalt High School freshman Shea Card. Card qualified to compete with Team Colorado at the 2017 Western Zone Age Group Championships from Aug. 9 to 12 in Roseville, California.
The meet effectively included the best 14-and-under swimmers in the western United States, outside of some of the top swimmers in southern California.
“Might there be a few good 14-and-under boys missing from this meet? Yeah, but he’s right up there. Those were really legitimate swims,” Gerson said. “The performances he laid down were really spectacular.”
Some of Card’s highlights include taking 13th in the 100 backstroke, 13th in the 200 IM, eighth in the 400 IM, and seventh in the 200 backstroke. His 200 backstroke time of 2 minutes, 17.33 seconds is believed to be the fastest by any Aspen swimmer ever, any age.
He also swam on Colorado’s 400 medley relay team that took third.
Quist gets taste of the big time
A year in the making, 2017 Aspen High School graduate Kennidy Quist finally got to experience one of the biggest stages in the country when she competed at the Aug. 8 to 12 Speedo Junior National Championships in East Meadow, New York. Junior nationals include most of the top 18-and-under swimmers in the country.
Quist, who will swim for Harvard University, didn’t score, but did set personal-best times in two of her three events.
“Why is that important? I don’t know if it’s the nerves, I don’t know if it’s a slow pool, but basically only about 10 percent of girls made best times at the meet,” Gerson said. “It was a great experience for her. When you are a post-graduate senior and you are still making best times in the summer, your college coaches have got to be looking forward to you doing well.”
Shining stars in Texas
Before Quist went to junior nationals, she was one of four to compete at the USA Swimming Futures Championships from Aug. 3 to 6 in Lewisville, Texas. There are four Futures competitions held around the country, with this meet including the best of the best from the Midwest not competing at junior nationals, with a few exceptions.
Quist used the meet more as a tune-up for juniors, while Charlie Mechling, a Glenwood Springs product who will be a sophomore at the University of South Dakota, used it mostly to get back into competition shape for the college season.
L.J. Fetzko, a Glenwood product who will swim for the University of Hawaii this year, and AHS senior Davy Brown were the other two Speedos swimmers competing at Futures.
“For Davy it was a big breakthrough because she has sometimes struggled with believing she was racing superhuman aliens at some of these bigger out of state meets,” Gerson said. “This meet was a time I saw her realize she could compete with them.”
The girls combined for a pair of top-five relay finishes and a seventh-place team finish. The highlight was Quist winning the 50 free race despite being in “tune up” mode.
Brown’s best race came when she finished sixth in the 200 backstroke. Fetzko took third in the 200 IM.
A bright future
In July, before the bigger national meets, many Aspen swimmers had their seasons come to a close at the state championship meets in Fort Collins. The older 13-and-over swimmers went first from July 21 to 23, while the younger 12-and-under swimmers followed July 28 to 30.
The main thing to note from the senior meet was the performance of AHS senior Emily Driscoll. She, along with Brown and Hannah Freeman, are expected to be the heart of the AHS girls swim team this winter. Those three, alongside Quist, led the Skiers to the 3A state championship last year.
“I’m not going to make such a bold statement as they will defend that state championship without Kennidy — those are large shoes to fill — but Emily showed something in long course that is going to translate really well to short course,” Gerson said. “Every heat Emily was in at states, she was the underwater winner. And at long course that does you a bit of good. At short course that does you a lot of good. She got something figured out there. She got nothing but best times at state.”
Driscoll’s highlight came when she finished fifth in the 200 backstroke.
Freeman, Mechling and Kelli Callahan, an AHS graduate and sophomore at the University of Puget Sound, all had strong swims at the senior state meet as well.
More than any of the meets, it was the younger swimmers who have Gerson excited.
“For the future of the team, the group I’m most excited about is the 12 year olds and the young 13 year olds,” Gerson said. “Those are the people we are going to be talking about for the next few years. They are all starting to realize what it takes to be great at this sport. We’ve had good role models for them.”
Swimmers who particularly stood out were Eddie Zane, Micah Sanders-Silva and Gavin Boggs. Zane had a pair of top-10 finishes, Sanders-Silva had three top-six finishes and Boggs four top-10 finishes.
“We had more pleasant surprises than I’ve ever noticed before,” Gerson said. “Through these five meets, I’m going to be bummed if we are not better (next year). I saw the pathway. It’s pretty cool.”
Also competing for the Speedos at the 12-and-under meet were Lillie Boggs, Bennett Jones, Laila Khan-Farooqi, Sara Michelin, Andrew Sprenger and Penelope White.
The Aspen Swim Club will soon get to work in preparation for their short-course season, which starts with a meet in Durango in late September.
“I probably sound like a broken record, but I’m just amazed what we are able to do sometimes in this little place for swimming,” Gerson said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the kids. For me, it’s all about developing the cloth.”
It would be easy enough to quantify long-distance adventures in Snowmass Village by the usual stats and figures: 90-plus miles of singletrack and dirt roads, four core endurance races every summer, infinite route combinations no more than a few hundred yards from the nearest parking spot or bus stop. But there’s another metric worth clocking too: Smiles per hour.
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