Girls Swimming: Wood sisters aim for big finish at Class 5A state meet

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From left, sisters April Wood, Lyssa Wood and Mia Wood all have qualified for the Class 5A girls state swim meet, which runs Feb. 12-13, 2016, at the Edora Pool & Ice Center in Fort Collins. Mia Wood is seeded No. 1 in the 200 yard freestyle and No. 2 in the 500 freestyle, while April Wood is the No. 5 seed in the 200 individual medley. The sisters aim to help the Wolves to its all-time best finish as a team. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)
From left, sisters April Wood, Lyssa Wood and Mia Wood all have qualified for the Class 5A girls state swim meet, which runs Feb. 12-13, 2016, at the Edora Pool & Ice Center in Fort Collins. Mia Wood is seeded No. 1 in the 200 yard freestyle and No. 2 in the 500 freestyle, while April Wood is the No. 5 seed in the 200 individual medley. The sisters aim to help the Wolves to its all-time best finish as a team. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

If you’re an only child, it would be impossible understand the Wood family’s internal motivation in all things, but especially in the swimming pool.

Freshman Lyssa Wood joined her senior twin sisters April and Mia on the Grandview girls swim team this season and given the friendly competition between them, it’s not surprising that all have reached new levels.

The sisters make up a third of the nine qualifiers the Wolves take into the Feb. 12-13 Class 5A state meet at the Edora Pool & Ice Center with designs on a top-five finish that would be the best in program history.

“We’re all so competitive; we all have our better strokes and we’re always comparing them,” Mia Wood said. “There are six of us and we have an adopted brother who also swam some, so there’s a lot of sibling rivalry. But it’s fun and I think it helps motivate all of us.”

Though the family is known around Grandview for its soccer background — mom Tari is the school’s girls soccer coach and led the Wolves to last season’s 5A state championship and dad Brian is the Grandview boys soccer coach — swimming is right behind.

Cayla Wood — a multiple-time 5A state qualifier at Grandview between 2007-10 — started the trend of Wood children in the pool when the family lived in Texas and it carried over to Colorado.

When they were younger, uncle Gary Gustafson often let took the girls to swim in the pool at Gateway where he was a teacher and coach.

Cayla went on to an outstanding college swimming career at the Colorado School of Mines, where she holds a handful of school records. April and Mia — also outstanding students like their older sister — signed letters of intent to swim at Mines Feb. 3 and will get the chance to knock their older sister out of the record books.

But before that, they close the chapter on their prep careers and could do it in style.

Mia Wood (who was selected winner of the Hoyt Brawner Award as the state’s top swimmer/scholar/citizen earlier in the year) is seeded No. 1 in the 200 yard freestyle and No. 2 in the 500 freestyle, putting her in position to become the Grandview girls program’s first-ever state champion and April Wood is the No. 5 seed in the 200 individual medley.

“It’s exciting, but it’s also really stressful,” admitted Mia Wood, who won her third career Centennial “A” League championship Feb. 6.

The twins have felt an extra boost with the arrival of Lyssa, who they’ve been waiting a long time to swim with. Both agree their younger sister will eventually be the fastest in the family.

“We were really excited to have the three of us together on the same team, at least for one year,” April said. “We got a lot of awesome freshmen (including Lyssa and another state qualifier, Molly Nankey) that’s made us a better team.”

At state, Lyssa Wood is entered in one event with each of her sisters — with Mia in the 500 freestyle, where she’s seeded 22nd and with April in the 200 IM, in which she goes in seeded 20th.

“We always have fun and they’ve always been my biggest competition,” Lyssa said. “They’ve always encouraged me to do my very best and I always encourage them to do their best.”

The sisters also contribute heavily on relays, including the sixth-seeded 200 and 400 freestyle units for coach Karen Ammon’s Grandview team.

In addition the Woods, junior Taylor Dirks is seeded to score for the Wolves in two individual events and sophomore Simone Cade is also within range to score in possibly two events if she can make a strong push forward.

While Grandview has designs on a high finish, so does Regis Jesuit, last season’s runner-up.

In the past, coach Nick Frasersmith’s Raiders have had to leave some state qualifiers at home due to limits of four swimmers per school per event, but that’s changed this season.

Regis Jesuit finished second at the Continental “A” League Championships Feb. 5-6 while competing without any of its state qualifiers and managed to add nine to its contingent of 24 swimmers and two divers headed to state. The new rule will allow six Raiders to compete in the prelims of the 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, plus five in the 50 and 100 freestyles.

Fairview —which Regis Jesuit edged for the 5A state title in 2014 before Fossil Ridge won last season — appears to be the heavy favorite, but the Raiders have the favorite to win a third straight 5A diving title in senior McKensi Austin, plus major point-scorers such as seniors Amy Lenderink and Lindsay Painton and junior Samantha Smith.

“Fairview has a lot of great young swimmers and a lot of depth, so they are going to be the lead dog for sure,” Frasersmith said. “I do and I think the girls can step up and if they all focus on having good swims, everything else will fall into place.”

Coach Scott Cohen’s Smoky Hill team has the potential to score in all three relays, while sophomore Natalie Rotondo, junior Jordyn Richey and senior Gaby Antunez are seeded to score individually in at least one event. Richey hopes to match or better her sixth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke from last season.

The diving board is again loaded with Aurora qualifiers with Regis Jesuit’s Austin and Anne Marie Kenny in the competition, as well as EMAC champion Brooke Connelly of Hinkley, freshman Sarah Mortenson — Rangeview’s first state qualifier in six years — and the Cherokee Trail duo of Christie Yee and Sarah Fangrow.

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