Aspen Swim Club wins Western Slope again, prepares for big end-of-season meets
The Aspen Swim Club may have new coaches, but the beat marches on in terms of its recent dominance this side of the Rockies. Earlier this month, the Speedos won their seventh straight Western Slope Championship, held July 12 to 14 in Grand Junction.
“That was a really good meet,” coach Tom Jager said. “It was a great experience for everybody. I think the team is coming together. We are starting to feel like we are on our path.”
Jager, who is one of the most decorated Olympic swimmers in U.S. history and was the former head coach at Washington State University, took over the Aspen job in the spring alongside his wife, Becky. They took over the spot Gordon Gerson stepped down from after a long run in charge.
Aspen had five smaller meets this summer before their Western Slope win.
“It’s obviously a big change, but I like them a lot,” Aspen swimmer Lillie Boggs said of the new coaches. “They are super positive and encouraging and I’m enjoying my summer, for sure.”
The streak lives on
Aspen won the Western Slope Championship with 2,683 points, comfortably ahead of runner-up Durango (2,070) and third-place Maverick Aquatics (2,055.5). Factored into that point total was the 8-and-under championship, which is run as a separate meet. Aspen also won that with 369 points, holding off Steamboat Springs (346).
Lillie Boggs, 14, Gavin Boggs, 11, and Maya Khan-Farooqi, 8, all were high-point winners in their respective age and gender groups for Aspen. Numerous others recorded top-three finishes, including many race winners.
“We are starting to feel good as a team and the kids are swimming great. Great leadership,” Tom Jager said. “At the 8-and-under meet, it’s its own entity, and we had half of our senior group helping with the 8-and-unders, and then they went and swam their own championship meet. It is a great environment to have young boys and girls in together, training hard, learning how to work with each other.”
The future of swimming
These last couple of weeks of the summer long-course season will be the biggest for a few of the Aspen swimmers still competing. A group of four will head to the 12-and-under state championships this weekend back in Grand Junction.
Two others — Kayla Tehrani and Laila Khan-Farooqi — will head to senior zones in Clovis, California, next week.
One swimmer, 14-year-old Bennett Jones, was picked to join a contingent from Colorado at the 2019 Western Zone Age Group Championship in Oregon from Aug. 7 to 10.
The biggest of the meets is Aug. 1 to 4 in Des Moines, Iowa, at the 2019 USA Swimming Futures Championships. Lillie Boggs and Shea Card will compete for Aspen.
“Up to this point, this will be the biggest meet I’ve gone to,” Card said. “You don’t want to approach meets like that, because when you approach them like ‘this is my biggest meet ever,’ you get in a bad head space. It may be really important to you, but you can’t let it be really important to you until after that race is over.”
Futures is a significant competition and is seen as the start of the path toward the Olympics. After Futures, swimmers can compete at Junior Nationals, then Senior Nationals, and then it’s onto the Olympic trials.
This will be a first-time trip to Futures for both Boggs and Card.
“Shea has been swimming great,” Jager said. “Shea had best times at Western Slope Championship and he’s been training great all year. So he’s getting ready to go to Futures.”
Card, who will be a junior at Basalt High School this fall, plans to compete in the 100 free, 200 free and 200 back at Futures.
Lillie Boggs actually qualified for Junior Nationals this season in the 200 breaststroke, which came as a bit of a surprise. She will save her Junior Nationals debut for next summer, however, in order to focus on Futures in the coming weeks.
“This year she is staying in the Futures, swimming the full format, hopefully getting some second swims,” Jager said. “There will be a lot of other great 14-year-olds. That’s why they call it Futures. This is the next generation.”
Boggs, who will be a freshman at Aspen High School this fall and is expected to be a key piece of the AHS girls swim team come winter, has already established herself as one of the best distance swimmers for her age in Colorado history, particularly in the mile. Futures will simply provide her another chance to stand out.
“It’s a really good opportunity to go out and swim my hardest and have fun. I’m really excited about it and I’m happy to do it,” she said. “I want to try and go next year (to Junior Nationals) and swim there and hopefully I can get a couple more qual times.”
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