Mattie Cassaday doesn’t have any sisters by blood, but when she jumps in the pool at Grandview, she’s with family.
Cassaday is just one member of a tight-knit Grandview girls swim team bonded by family ties and longtime friendships that have pushed the Wolves to new heights this season.
Riding a wave of momentum generated in the past two weeks, Grandview has 12 swimmers already qualified for the Feb. 14-15 Class 5A state meet — only defending state champion Regis Jesuit has more among Aurora schools — and Karen Ammon couldn’t coach a happier group.
“We’ve all ended up becoming sisters; I’m an only child, but I show up to any one of their houses and I’m welcomed like I’m a sister,” said Cassaday, one of the Wolves’ team captains.
“It’s a dynamic that other teams might not necessarily have. We love and care for each other so much and it helps that we know each other so well that we know where we want to go and try to help everybody get there.”
DNA has a lot to do with the closeness of Grandview’s team, which has six sets of sisters in all, including two pairs of twins — juniors Mackenzie and Morgan Ammon and sophomores April and Mia Wood — that have all qualified for state, as have sisters Madison and Taylor Dirks.
On top of that, the team’s core of seniors Cassaday, Madison Dirks, Amanda Matheson, Hannah Meehan, Maddy Griffin and Bre Thompson — all state qualifiers themselves — carry relationships with them that started as far back as first grade.
“You’ve got these sisters, then you get this huge friend group and we’re all in it together,” Matheson said. “All the morning practices every single week and swimming in meets, it just brings us all closer together.”
The seniors know they only have a few more weeks to swim together and they’ve made plenty of memories recently.
On Jan. 16, Grandview posted a 94-91 Centennial League dual meet victory over rival Cherry Creek, a first in program history. The Wolves had been close to knocking off the powerhouse Bruins before, but it finally happened in their home pool in their last chance.
“Creek lost a lot from last year, but we just went in there and raced,” said Madison Dirks, who posted one of Grandview’s six event wins at the meet.
“We won a lot of really close races, which helped a lot,” she added. “It definitely gave us a lot of positive energy about where we’re headed.”
Just two days later, the Wolves posted a combined 12 state-qualifying times at the Jefferson County Invitational, which put them a point behind Ralston Valley for the championship.
The meet had a snowball effect, as it seemed that every swimmer that touched the wall came in with a new best time or added a new event to her list of events for the state meet at the Veterans’ Memorial Aquatic Center.
“At meets, we always feed off each other’s successes, so it just adds to the energy of the whole team when somebody swims well,” said Matheson, who has state qualifying times in the 100-yard butterfly and 50-yard freestyle so far.
“It just keeps building and building,” she added.
Grandview’s success has created a good problem for Karen Ammon, who has had to rethink the taper she’ll put her team through this year.
With past teams, she’s tried to get the team to peak for the Centennial “A” League championships as many needed the fast meet to get their state cuts, but this time there’s no pressure on that meet and the preparation can shift.
How much will the difference make at state? That remains to be seen, but the Wolves have a moved up in the standings for four straight years and came in ninth last season with largely the same group.
“I’d like each of them to end their season with their best swim; if they do, everything else will fall into place,” Ammon said. “This is a band of exceptional individuals, so I think anything’s possible.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
GRANDVIEW CLASS 5A GIRLS STATE SWIM MEET QUALIFIERS
Wolves with Class 5A state cuts going into Centennial “A” League meet Feb. 7-8 at Arapahoe High School: Mackenzie Ammon, jr.; Morgan Ammon, jr.; Mattie Cassaday, sr.; Sami Daniels, jr.; Madison Dirks, sr.; Taylor Dirks, fr.; Maddy Griffin, sr.; Amanda Matheson, sr.; Hannah Meehan, sr.; Bre Thompson, sr.; April Wood, soph.; Mia Wood, soph.