Senior Joshua Nieves, left, sophomore Daniel Yi and senior Brayden Pearce pose with the Smoky Hill Invitational championship trophy won by the host Buffaloes on April 16, 2022. Yi won twice individually and twice with relay teams as Smoky Hill swam to victory over runner-up Heritage and third-place Cherokee Trail. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | If anybody can appreciate a good 100 yard breaststroke, it’s Scott Cohen, who has had many a state champion among elite talents under his tutelage in the event.

So, the Smoky Hill boys swim coach couldn’t help but smile Saturday afternoon as he watched his Buffaloes finish first, second and fourth in the event as the final exclamation point to a commanding performance that delivered the Smoky Hill Invitational championship.

At the first full-scale edition of the annual meet since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Smoky Hill got two wins from sophomore Daniel Yi — who led the Buffaloes’ big wave in the breaststroke — and took two of the three relays to win an event that saw seven new meet records and three new pool standards established.

Cherokee Trail racked up 518 points to finish third behind the Buffaloes (804.5 points) and Heritage (665.5), while Overland finished 13th to round out Aurora teams in the field.

Smoky Hill won the 2019 Invitational title, then the meet was lost along with the entire spring season in 2020 and consisted of only three teams — the Buffaloes, Cherry Creek and Cherokee Trail — last season as part of very restrictive season.

The return of the meet saw big performances from visitors Heritage, Columbine and Chatfield (which had a slew of top swimmers from the most recent Class 5A rankings combined by (here) and combined to win six events), but Smoky Hill left no doubt that it was the top team in the field with its performance.

Nowhere was the strength more evident than in the breaststroke, where Yi finished first with senior Joshua Nieves and Yi’s older brother, Isaac, in fourth.

Daniel Yi’s time of 56.80 seconds bettered the previous Smoky Hill Invitational meet record of 57.17 set in 2017 by Liberty’s Josh Lenzmeier — which at the time took down a mark that had stood since 1997 — and also gave him the new pool record, which knocked out the 56.98 clocked by Cherry Creek’s Henry Batson in 2021. It was the second pool record of the season thus far for Yi, who took that honor at Grandview earlier.

Nieves finished in 58.44 (just off his season-best of 58.37) for second and Isaac Yi also finished just a shade off his season-best of 58.63 with a 58.69 in the finals. The race went on without Chatfield’s Joshua Corn, who had 5A’s best time in the event of 57.97 coming into the week of competition.

Daniel Yi went 4-for-4 on the day, as he swam a season-best time of 47.14 in the 100 freestyle to take that event (with Cherokee Trail’s Tucker Meeks in second), while he also swam legs on Smoky Hill’s 200 yard medley and 200 freestyle relay teams that won in meet-record fashion.

In the 200 medley relay, Yi, Nieves and fellow senior Brayden Pearce and junior Antonio Goris touched the wall in 1:35.29 to unseat Heritage’s 1:35.70 in 2019 as the meet’s top all-time mark, while the Yi brothers, Nieves and Goris turned in a time of 1:27.66 in the 200 freestyle to top a mark set by the Buffaloes last season.

Smoky Hill also had three of the top-six finishers in the 200 freestyle (sophomore Jake Baker second, freshman Ian Noffsinger fourth and sophomore Patrick Adams sixth) and two of the top-four placers in the 100 butterfly (Goris in third and Pearce in fourth) to lead the way. Baker — who had 5A’s top 500 yard freestyle time coming into the week — also took second that event to what should be the new No. 1 in Tristen Davin of Chatfield.

Senior Brandon Bicknell placed third for Smoky Hill in the 1-meter diving competition, which was held in its entirety on Friday.

Columbine’s Chase Mueller set meet and pool records in each of his victories — 1:49.46 in the 200 yard individual medley to take down a mark held since 2007 by former Heritage star Mark Dylla and 47.85 in the 100 yard backstroke — and led off the Rebel’s 400 yard freestyle relay, which knocked Fossil Ridge out of the meet recordbooks with a time of 3:12.00.

Davin (a two-event winner) set a meet mark in the 50 yard freestyle of 20.83 seconds.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports


April 16 at Smoky Hill High School

Team scores: 1. SMOKY HILL 804.5 points; 2. Heritage 665.5; 3. CHEROKEE TRAIL 518; 4. Columbine 460; 5. Chatfield 411; 6. George Washington 402; 7. Ponderosa 372; 8. Mullen 364; 9. Douglas County 308; 10. Denver East 285; 11. Smoky Hill Red 233; 12. Smoky Hill Green 102; 13. OVERLAND 66

Event winners

200 yard medley relaySMOKY HILL (Brayden Pearce, Daniel Yi, Antonio Goris, Joshua Nieves), 1 minute, 35.29 seconds (meet record, previous 1:35.70 by Heritage in 2019)

200 yard freestyle — Garrett Gurley (Heritage), 1 minute, 45.18 seconds

200 yard individual medley — Chase Mueller (Columbine), 1 minute, 49.46 seconds (meet record, previous 1:52.19 by Mark Dylla in 2007/pool record, previous 1:52.81 by Griffin Eiber in 2017)

50 yard freestyle — Tristen Davin (Chatfield), 20.83 seconds (meet record, previous 20.97 by Bryce Ortanes in 2021)

100 yard butterfly — Tanner Reed (George Washington), 53.14 seconds

100 yard freestyleDANIEL YI (SMOKY HILL), 47.14 seconds

500 yard freestyle — Tristen Davin (Chatfield), 4 minutes, 43.60 seconds

200 yard freestyle relaySMOKY HILL (Daniel Yi, Antonio Goris, Isaac Yi, Joshua Nieves), 1 minute, 27.66 seconds (meet record, previous 1:28.16 by Smoky Hill in 2021)

100 yard backstroke — Chase Mueller (Columbine), 47.85 seconds (meet record, previous 49.34 by Gavin Olson in 2019/pool record, previous 49.09 by Daryl Turner in 2012)

100 yard breaststrokeDANIEL YI (SMOKY HILL), 56.80 seconds (meet record, previous 57.17 by Josh Lenzmeier in 2017/pool record, previous 56.98 by Henry Batson in 2021)

400 yard freestyle —Columbine, 3 minutes, 12 seconds (meet record, previous 3:12.18 by Fossil Ridge in 2015)

— Complete results for the 2022 Smoky Hill Invitational boys swim meet, here