Piney Creek pulling for Piehl

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Caroline Piehl grew up swimming at the Piney Creek Pool before going on to star at nearby Smoky Hill High School in Aurora.

Next she headed to Cal Berkeley — and helped the Bears win the 2012 NCAA championship as a freshman — and on Wednesday morning, Piehl will appear in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., where U.S. Olympic Team spots are on the line.

Practice will be going on at Piney Creek during Piehl’s races, the women’s 200 meter freestyle is scheduled for 9 a.m. MT and the women’s 200 individual medley at 10:40 a.m., but coaches, swimmers and parents will be anxiously checking online results to see how the former pool legend is performing on the big stage at the CenturyLink Center.

“Caroline has 22 team records at Piney Creek, including some from when she was 9 years old, so she has a following there,” said Scott Cohen, who coached Piehl at both Piney Creek and Smoky Hill.

“We’re all excited for her and she knows we’ll be following her from there. I’ve been in contact with her and she’s really excited to be in that atmosphere.”

Piehl has had quite a year since she graduated from Smoky Hill, where she placed in two individual events for all four years at the Class 5A girls state swim meet and won two state championships in the 200 IM. Piehl received the Hoyt Brawner Award as the top senior swimmer in Colorado when she graduated in 2011 and wasted little time making an impact at Cal Berkeley, placing in three individual events and contributing on a top-3 relay team as the Bears captured the national title.

She’s already been named a team captain for next season as a sophomore, which has never happened before at Cal, but it doesn’t surprise Cohen.

“Caroline is as valuable to a team out of the water as she is in the water, it’s the way she carries herself and the role she plays out there,” Cohen said. “She has such a positive influence on other kids and makes other people better. It’s good to see her have success doing things the right way.”

Piehl’s chances of making this year’s Olympic Team are long — she’s seeded 31st in the 200 IM, 79th in the 200 freestyle and 93rd in the 100 freestyle — there’s no doubt she could be a contender in the 2016 Trials. Three more seasons at Cal could put her in prime position if she improves at her current pace.

“It’s amazing how far she’s gone over the past three years, so in another four years, who knows?” Cohen said.

If she doesn’t make the Olympic Team, Piehl is likely to end up right where she started, at Piney Creek Pool, where she will help coach kids.

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555