Missy Franklin will be back in the pool this season, but so will a whole lot of Aurora’s best girls swimmers.
Regis Jesuit received a huge boost with the recent announcement that Franklin — who won four gold medals and a bronze at the Summer Olympics in London — will swim a small number of duals and the state meet in her senior year.
In addition to Franklin, fortunate Regis Jesuit coach Nick Frasersmith gets back 13 other returning state qualifiers, gets senior Delaney Lanker back in the mix and adds at least five strong freshmen as it looks to challenge defending champion Fossil Ridge and powerhouse rival Cherry Creek — among others — for the Class 5A title at season’s end.
“I think it’s just going to be a fun exciting season; we’re working hard and going to try to take care of business one meet at a time,” said Frasersmith, who had seven state-qualifying performances alone in the team’s opening dual meet with Chaparral.
The Raiders received some welcome news on Nov. 27, when Franklin finally decided she couldn’t pass up a chance — even if limited because of her schedule — to swim with her team as a senior.
Already a six-time individual 5A state champion — three times in the 100 yard backstroke, twice in the 50 freestyle and once in the 200 freestyle — Franklin will have a chance to add to her spot in Colorado prep lore.
Franklin is expected to swim just two dual meets, with the Raiders’ Jan. 15 home dual against Cherry Creek likely one of those, plus the Feb. 8-9 5A state meet at the Edora Pool & Ice Center.
It might be the last chance local swim fans get to see Franklin compete in the water in Colorado for quite some time, as she’s off to compete at the University of California-Berkeley for at least two years and training for the 2016 Olympics.
“It really was quite a decision for Missy, but just on par with her character, her decision wasn’t based on her, but based on other people,” Frasersmith said. “Whatever other people might perceive, she just wants to finish off her senior year with a team she’s been a part of for the last three years and with some of the best friends she has in high school.
“So far what we’ve heard from the other coaches and swimmers I’ve talked to, it’s been so positive.”
Fellow seniors Lindsay Kriz, Carla Meli and Marielle Renehan also scored for Regis Jesuit at last season’s state meet in at least one event, as did sophomores Sydney Cutler, Taylor Wilson and diver Kellyn Toole.
Lanker — who was part of a state championship-winning relay as a sophomore and is strong individually in the backstroke and breaststroke — further bolsters the Raiders lineup, as does a handful of top-tier freshman.
Frosh McKensi Austin gives Regis Jesuit a chance to be very strong on the diving board, as she joins returning qualifiers Toole and Danielle Clayton.
Grandview returns every one of its eight individual state qualifiers from last season — including two-event placers in senior Kianna Lee and junior Madison Dirks — giving coach Karen Ammon’s team a lot to look forward to.
Dirks placed in the top five in two events and along with Lee and twins Mackenzie and Morgan Ammon finished an Aurora-best third in the 200 yard freestyle relay at state.
Juniors Amanda Matheson, Hannah Meehan and Breanne Thompson and sophomore Samantha Daniels also have state appearances under their belts.
Smoky Hill coach Scott Cohen doesn’t have the elite talent he had in years past with Caroline Piehl and Kelse Johnson, but two state qualifiers return in junior Lizzie Wiley and sophomore Julia Song, while senior Alyse Miller has state experience in relays. The Buffs should get a boost from freshman Gabby Antunez.
Cherokee Trail (sophomore Grace Grigereit) and Gateway (senior Barbara Barocio) have back swimmers who made it to state in two events, while Rangeview looks to defend its APS championship.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]