THORNTON | It was pandemonium inside the Veterans’ Memorial Aquatic Center Saturday during the final race of the Class 5A boys state swim meet.

Three-time defending 5A state champion Fossil Ridge and contender Regis Jesuit had traded blows back and forth for the entire meet until it came down to the outcome of the 400 yard freestyle relay to decide who would win this season’s crown.

Raiders senior Elijah Warren — who won all four final races he swam in on the day — held off SaberCats senior star Danny Kovac on the final leg of the relay, as he touched the wall first to deliver Regis Jesuit’s 22nd overall state championship, but first since 2014.

A season after Regis Jesuit finished 105 points behind Fossil Ridge, coach Nick Frasersmith’s Raiders topped by the SaberCats by a mere 4.5 points in a battle of programs that have developed the utmost respect for each other over the last handful of seasons.

Warren won individual state championships in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke and swam the breaststroke on Regis Jesuit’s meet-opening win in the 200 medley relay. The Arizona State signee capped off the performance by following fellow seniors Ty Coen and Elliot Steinberg and junior Will Goodwin into the pool and holding on in the last lap against a surging Kovac.

“It was surreal, amazing,” Frasersmith said. “It was intense…I thought we had a chance, but I didn’t know it would turn out that way. Elijah finished like a champ all the way to the end. I really can’t remember a relay that amazing.”

Regis Jesuit was projected to finish second to Fossil Ridge for a fourth straight season according to’s rankings based on the pre-meet psyche sheets, which showed a 57-point margin between the teams.

That margin tightened up to 20 following an outstanding prelim session for the Raiders, which ended with what turned out to be a key result when sophomore Will Kerscher touched out Hinkley’s Nathan Leigh in an all-Aurora 200 individual medley swim-off for the last spot in the championship finals.

That result meant at least two more points going into the championship finals and Regis Jesuit counted on every one of those points.

The Raiders opened the championship finals with an energizing performance in the 200 medley relay, which saw a great leadoff backstroke turned in by Coen — who was cleared only days earlier to return to the pool following a broken hand he suffered in practice — followed by Warren’s breaststroke, sophomore Jackson Gurley’s butterfly and junior Will Goodwin’s freestyle.

Goodwin’s finish gave Regis Jesuit an Automatic All-American time of 1 minute, 30.52 seconds, enough to set the Colorado and 5A state meet record by just 0.01 of a second. Cherry Creek clocked a 1:30.53 in 2013.

Goodwin then turned in a runner-up finish behind Kovac in the 200 IM and then Warren, who was seeded second behind Mountain Range’s Lane Austin in the 50 freestyle coming in, captured his second career state championship with a time of 20.68 seconds.

Freshman Quinn Henninger’s runner-up finish behind three-time state champion Octavio Lucero of Bear Creek in the diving competition helped Regis Jesuit’s cause and it trailed by just six points after six total events.

Coen, a University of Arizona recruit, turned in a career-best individual performance with his second-place finish in the 100 backstroke behind Columbine’s Gavin Olson and Warren and Goodwin went 1-2 in the breaststroke — with times of 55.01 and 55.80 seconds, respectively — to make it just a 1.5-point spread for Fossil Ridge with one event left.

The SaberCats were easily the No. 1 seed in the event after prelims with a nearly four-second cushion over the Raiders, but Coen led off, Steinberg pushed Regis Jesuit out to a lead and Goodwin maintained it before Warren jumped in to finish. Kovac closed near the end, but couldn’t catch the Raiders’ star at the end.

“We kept track of it and swimmer by swimmer, every single one of them contributed,” Frasersmith said. “When it comes down to the last relay, every point you had made a difference.”

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports


Team scores: 1. REGIS JESUIT 290.50 points; 2. Fossil Ridge 286; 3. Cherry Creek 208.5; 4. Arapahoe 198; 5. Highlands Ranch 169; 6. Boulder 138; 7. Ponderosa 117; 8. HINKLEY 101; 9. Rocky Mountain 96; 10. Fort Collins 88.5; 11. Greeley West 82; 12. Broomfield 79; 13. Legacy 68; 14. Lewis-Palmer 66; 15. SMOKY HILL 57; 16. Mountain Range 50; T17. Ralston Valley 36; T17. Columbine 26; 19. GRANDVIEW 22.5; 20. Heritage 21; T21. Bear Creek 20; T21. Rampart 20; T21. Denver South 20; 24. Fairview 19; 25. Lakewood 15; 26. Denver East 13; 27. Chatfield 6; 28. Monarch 2

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...