The Regis Jesuit girls swim team felt accomplished enough this season with the camaraderie and bond it established in the pool.
It just so happened that the Raiders’ talent and closeness combined to produce a satisfying, trophy-filled ending to the Class 5A girls state swim meet Feb. 13 at the Edora Pool & Ice Center in Fort Collins.
Regis Jesuit rallied past Fossil Ridge on the final event of the meet, the 400 yard freestyle relay, to finish second behind Fairview and nine members of coach Nick Frasersmith’s group make up a large portion of the 2015-16 Aurora Sentinel All-City Girls Swim Team.
Joining the large continent of Raiders for a second straight season in the city’s top group — which is determined by performance at the 5A state meet — are Grandview twins April and Mia Wood and Smoky Hill’s Jordyn Richey.
“Honestly, this was the best team I’ve been on in all four years, it was very unique and very special,” Regis Jesuit senior Lindsay Painton said.
“It was a blast and everybody contributed in their own way. We couldn’t have been closer and it’s much easier to fight for a team you love.”
Besides the team runner-up trophy — the fourth consecutive first or second-place finish for coach Nick Frasersmith’s Regis Jesuit program — plenty of individual success came along with it.
Senior diver McKensi Austin claimed her third straight 5A state championship and fourth consecutive spot on the All-City Team with another dazzling performance. The University of Georgia signee racked up a total of 539.90 points, more than 70 points ahead of her closest competitor.
Austin — who placed fourth as a freshman in 2012-13 before starting her championship run — received the 5A Diver of the Year award.
Regis Jesuit also had a pair of relay state championships and both came in exciting fashion and with Painton in the water last. The University of Missouri-bound Painton managed to win a touchout in both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and she was also the best finisher from an Aurora school in the 100 freestyle with her second-place finish.
Two of Painton’s three teammates on the 200 freestyle relay were part of the same team that won last season’s state crown in the event, as senior Amy Lenderink and junior Jennae Frederick helped capture gold again, with freshman Meriel Upton filling the place left by graduated Taylor Wilson.
“Relays are so much to be a part of,” said Frederick, one of six team captains for next season. “All the girls gave their all and it was awesome to see the girls and their reactions after we looked up at the scoreboard.”
Swimming with veterans such as Painton, Lenderink and Frederick calmed Upton’s nerves and she went out and contributed to the state championship.
“The whole energy around it helped and I swim faster in relays,” Upton said. “I’m racing for the three other girls on the blocks and the team. I was a little bit bummed that I didn’t place individually, but it was really exciting to be a part of the relays.”
Upton also swam with Painton and juniors Samantha Smith and Isabella Schultze on a 400 freestyle relay that also prevailed in a frenetic finish to the meet. The victory jumped the Raiders over Fossil Ridge and into second place.
“Our team song came on right before the relay and our whole team freaked out,” Schultze said. “I feel the team really just carried us, it wasn’t just the four of us. The whole way it was just get in there and go as fast as you can. You tune everything else out except for the girls next to you.
“Trophies don’t matter as much as everything that happened with the team, but it was so cool that that event got us one. To compete with two amazing teams like Fairview and Fossil Ridge was unbelieveable.”
The 200 medley relay team of Lenderink and fellow senior Kaylie Breslin (a West Point signee), junior Smith and freshman Courtney Vale came of short of winning the state championship, but improved drastically from its ninth-place position in the pre-meet rankings all the way up to second place.
“We never expect to place that high,” Breslin said. “Looking at the psyche sheet to see where we were coming in and to take second, who would have thought? Everbody did their job.”
Added Vale, who swam the breaststroke portion of the event: “I was really nervous going into it, but once I got behind the blocks with the other girls I was ready. It was really exciting and we weren’t even supposed to make the A Final.”
Individually, Lenderink (a University of Iowa signee) was the top swimmer from an Aurora school in the 100 butterfly with a second-place result as well as in the 50 freestyle, in which she placed 11th after a slip off the blocks in the prelims hindered her just enough to miss the championship final in the event.
“I had an amazing swim in the fly and you can’t control how other people do, so there’s nothing wrong with second place,” said Lenderink, who finished only behind Fossil Ridge freshman phenom Coleen Gillilan.
“It was an honor and I was so grateful to lead this team as one of the captains. It’s bittersweet that it’s over, but when I see the girls in the hallways, the spirit is still there.”
Smith topped city swimmers with her 10th-place showing in the 100 backstroke.
“The backstroke was good, but my goggles broke for prelims,” Smith said. “It got my adrenaline up, but I wasn’t able to make finals. It’s one of those things where you have an obstacle and you have to find a way to get through it.”
As a senior, Mia Wood came agonizingly close to becoming the Grandview girls program’s first individual state champion, but she couldn’t find her way past Fairview’s Brittney Beetcher in either the 200 or 500 freestyles (1:52.20 to 1:51.07 in the 200 free, and 5:00.25 to 4:56.57 in the 500 free.
The Hoyt Brawner Award winner as the state’s top swimmer/scholar/citizen as selected by coaches knew Beetcher well from club swimming but couldn’t quite match the finishing power of Beetcher, even though she knew it was coming.
Aside from that, Wood came a fraction of a second short of her goal in the 500 freestyle, as she touched the wall in 5:00.25 and she relished swimming the anchor leg of Grandview’s eighth-place 400 freestyle relay team.
“I knew I wanted to (be the school’s first state champion), it would have been so cool,” Wood said. “I was so happy with how I swam.”
April Wood captured the All-City spot in the 200 yard individual medley, an event in which she finished 12th. She and Mia both head to the Colorado School of Mines to swim — following in the footsteps of older sister Cayla — and pursue degrees in some for of engineering.
Wood said her favorite memory will be the 400 freestyle relay in which she and her sister, plus fellow senior Ellie Furuta and junior Taylor Dirks placed eighth.
“I got to count for Taylor in the prelims and finals of the 500 (freestyle) and it was just a lot of fun to be with the team,” said Wood, who said she battle illness at the state meet.
Both Wood sisters are looking forward to the future for younger sister Lyssa, who made an impact with the program as a freshman.
Richey said she felt the pressure of expectations grow more intense on her this season as she returned coming off a sixth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke at last season’s state meet.
She finished second in the event at the Centennial “A” League meet despite going all-out to win it, so she admitted her second-place finish shook her confidence a bit.
“It’s not quite what I wanted, but I tried my hardest,” Richey said. “I put it all out there at A League and tried to win, but not winning kindof crushed my confidence. My head wasn’t all the way in it at the state meet.”
Veteran Buffs coach Scott Cohen showed her video of her form in the event from last season versus this season and she feels good about her prospects next season.
Richey is also looking forward to taking on the role of a team captain for a young Smoky Hill team.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2015-2016 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-CITY GIRLS SWIM TEAM
200 yard freestyle, 500 yard freestyle: Mia Wood, sr., Grandview; 200 yard individual medley: April Wood, sr., Grandview; 50 yard freestyle, 100 yard butterfly: Amy Lenderink, sr., Regis Jesuit; 1-meter diving: McKensi Austin, sr., Regis Jesuit*; 100 yard freestyle: Lindsay Painton, sr., Regis Jesuit; 100 yard backstroke: Samantha Smith, jr., Regis Jesuit; 100 yard breaststroke: Jordyn Richey, jr., Smoky Hill
RELAYS — 200 yard medley relay: Regis Jesuit (Samantha Smith, Courtney Vale, Kaylie Breslin, Amy Lenderink); 200 yard freestyle relay: Regis Jesuit (Amy Lenderink, Jennae Frederick, Meriel Upton, Lindsay Painton)*; 400 yard freestyle relay: Regis Jesuit (Samantha Smith, Meriel Upton, Isabella Schultze, Lindsay Painton)*
* — State champion
Claire Brennan, fr., Regis Jesuit (100 yard freestyle); Kaylie Breslin, sr., Regis Jesuit (100 butterfly); Taylor Dirks, jr., Grandview (500 freestyle); Jennae Frederick, jr., Regis Jesuit (100 butterfly & 200 individual medley); Anne Marie Kenny, soph., Regis Jesuit (1-meter diving); Lindsay Painton, sr., Regis Jesuit (200 freestyle); Emily Protz, sr., Regis Jesuit (200 & 500 freestyles); Natalie Rotondo, soph., Smoky Hill (200 freestyle); Isabella Schultze, jr., Regis Jesuit (200 freestyle); Samantha Smith, jr., Regis Jesuit (100 freestyle); RELAYS — 200 yard medley relay: Smoky Hill (Jianna Walker, Jordyn Richey, Natalie Rotondo, Gaby Antunez); 200 freestyle relay: Grandview (Simone Cade, Ellie Furuta, April Wood, Mia Wood) & Smoky Hill (Gaby Antunez, Natalie Rotondo, Brieyana Walton, Jianna Walker); 400 freestyle relay: Grandview (Taylor Dirks, Ellie Furuta, April Wood, Mia Wood)
Full 5A state meet results, here.
Full list of Aurora state placers, here.