AURORA | Cowboy hats may or may not have made any difference in the performance of the Smoky Hill boys swim team Saturday in the championship finals of the Smoky Hill Invitational, but it definitely added some fun to the Buffs’ outstanding performance.
In between prelims and finals of the one-day annual meet, sophomore Ian Noffsinger picked up four cowboy hats for Smoky Hill’s qualifiers for the championship finals to wear to the starting blocks, including a black one that went to the highest seed from the team out of prelims.
It added some extra flair to a performance that saw the Buffaloes win six events to pile up 933 points to finish well ahead of a field of 16 teams and put them on pace for a big finish to the season with the conclusion of the Centennial League schedule along with the “A” League Championships and Class 5A state meet ahead in the next four weeks.
“The guys at CU (University of Colorado) always have the cowboy hats on and I haven’t seen that around here,” said Noffsinger, who was one of four individual winners for the Buffaloes. “I thought it would be a cool way to bring up the morale of the team and encourage the guys to go fast.”
There definitely was plenty of fast in the pool for coach Scott Cohen’s team, which opened the meet with a victory in the 200 yard medley relay that saw senior Antonio Goris and juniors Ben and Landon Brewer and Daniel Yi establish a meet record with a time of 1 minute, 34.80 seconds.
From there, junior Kyle Brushaber won the 200 yard freestyle (an event that saw four Smoky Hill swimmer make the championship final), Yi claimed the 200 yard individual medley, Landon Brewer took the 100 freestyle, Noffsinger claimed the Smoky Hill-dominated 500 freestyle, Yi set a team record in winning 100 breaststroke and Brushaber, Landon Brewer, Yi and fellow junior Sam Baker closed things out with a big win in the 400 freestyle relay.
In between, there were plenty of top performances that came on the heels of a strong session of preliminaries that greatly pleased Cohen at this juncture of the season.
“A lot of our guys weren’t at the Coaches Invite when they were in Texas (for a club sectional meet), so for us I think this was almost a good practice meet for state,” Cohen said. “Just suiting up and racing fast twice. It’s the only time we’ll do that until state, so it’s great for these guys to race their best events and do it two times since they’ll have to do that again a month from now.”
The race of the meet came in the breaststroke, where Yi and Chatfield’s Joshua Corn went head-to-head in a matchup of swimmers that finished second (Corn) and third (Yi) in the event at last season’s 5A state meet.
Corn got to the wall in 54.83 seconds and Yi in 54.98, putting them both under the meet record of 56.19 set in prelims by Yi and also under the standard for the pool.
Yi — who knocked former star Aidan Mercer off the top of the Smoky Hill recordbooks in the 200 yard individual medley earlier with a time of 1 minute, 54.11 seconds — came away with a smile on his face about the race.
“The entire season I’ve been wanting to go a 54, so doing it at a Smoky Invite and non-tapered just blows my mind,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been dreaming of and training for. …Josh is definitely somebody I can track myself with and it really helps a lot.”
Yi won four events for the second straight season at the meet.
Landon Brewer had the fastest time in the 100 freestyle prelims and he went even faster in the final as he touched the wall in 47.41 seconds to win by nearly a full second over Ponderosa’s Archer Sanchez. Brushaber finished third and senior Sebastian Piwko sixth for the Buffaloes.
“It definitely didn’t go like I expected,” Brewer said. “The first 50, there were people with me, so I realized I really had to go. Then, I touched the wall and noone was with me.”
Junior Jake Baker got to wear the black cowboy hat to the starting blocks ahead of a 500 freestyle final that saw him joined by teammates Noffsinger and junior Patrick Adams, but it was Noffsinger that led the way on a dominating finish for the Buffs that saw him win with Baker second and Adams fourth.
“I truly just got lucky; I don’t really know how to describe it, it was so fun and fast,” said Noffsinger, last season’s Centennial “A” League champion in the event who swam 4:49.83 in prelims and 4:41.85 in the finals. “It was a great race.”
Overland scored 66 points at the meet in 2022, but bumped that total up to 102 this season to five points in front of Cherokee Trail for 13th place.
The Trailblazers had the only diving competitor among the three Aurora programs in Chad Hamilton, who placed eighth in the competition held Friday, then their top showing on Saturday came with junior Eric Kelly’s 11th-place result in the 50 freestyle.
Cherokee Trail’s best individual showing came from sophomore Bronson Smothers, who was the fastest swimmer in the field in the 50 free and finished second in the finals. With a time of 21.58 seconds, Smothers came in second behind Columbine’s Casey Jacobs (21.21) and just in front of Smoky Hill senior Nicholas Gordon (21.76).
Besides Smoky Hill’s 200 medley relay team and Corn in the breaststroke, the other Smoky Hill Invitational meet record went to the Columbine 200 yard freestyle relay team of Jacobs, Bayden Todd, Tobin Uhl and Joseph Studermann, who swam 1:26.84 in the finals. The previous meet mark was 1:27.66 set by Smoky Hill in 2022.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2023 SMOKY HILL INVITATIONAL BOYS SWIM MEET
April 15 at Smoky Hill High School
Team scores: 1. SMOKY HILL 933 points; 2. Heritage 681.5; 3. Columbine 578; 4. Ponderosa 485; 4. Mullen 377; 6. George Washington 373.5; 7. Douglas County 336; 8. SMOKY HILL RED 204; 9. Chatfield 195; 10. Denver East 174; 11. SMOKY HILL GREEN 130; 12. D’Evelyn 121; 13. OVERLAND 102; 14. CHEROKEE TRAIL 97; 15. Heritage Scarlet 76; 16. Littleton Lions 32
Event winners: 200 yard medley relay — 1. SMOKY HILL (Ben Brewer, Daniel Yi, Antonio Goris, Landon Brewer), 1 minute, 34.80 seconds (Meet record, previous 1:35.05 by Smoky Hill in prelims); 200 yard freestyle — 1. KYLE BRUSHABER (SMOKY HILL), 1 minute, 44.99 seconds; 200 yard individual medley — 1. DANIEL YI (SMOKY HILL), 1 minute, 54.11 seconds; 50 yard freestyle — 1. Casey Jacobs (Columbine), 21.21 seconds; 1-meter diving — 1. Connor Wherry (Littleton), 436.70 points; 100 yard butterfly — 1. Brodie Salzbrener (Ponderosa), 52.45 seconds; 100 yard freestyle — 1. LANDON BREWER (SMOKY HILL), 47.41 seconds; 500 yard freestyle — 1. IAN NOFFSINGER (SMOKY HILL), 4 minutes, 41.85 seconds; 200 yard freestyle relay — 1. Columbine, 1 minute, 26.84 seconds (Meet record, previous 1:27.66 by Smoky Hill in 2022); 100 yard backstroke — 1. Jacob Maestas (Heritage), 52.35 seconds; 100 yard breaststroke — 1. Joshua Corn (Chatfield), 54.83 seconds (Meet record, previous 56.19 by Smoky Hill’s Daniel Yi in 2023); 400 yard freestyle relay — 1. SMOKY HILL (Kyle Brushaber, Landon Brewer, Sam Baker, Daniel Yi), 3 minutes, 13.71 seconds
— Complete 2023 Smoky Hill Invitational boys meet results, here