Ross takes the wheel for DHS swim

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Kathryn Ross, a Fort Lewis College cyclist and experienced triathlete, recently took over the Durango High School girls swimming program, and she’ll lead them in the season’s first meet at 4 p.m. today at the Fort Lewis College pool against Delta, Fruita Monument and Grand Junction.

By Ryan Owens Herald staff writer

The coaching wheel for Durango High School girls swimming has gone around again with gusto.

This time, it landed on a former triathlete and high school swimmer who spends her time away from the pool in the classroom or on a bike.

Kathryn Ross is the sixth coach in the last five seasons for DHS girls swimming, which has managed to pilot sizeable groups to the state meet despite a steady stream of coaching changes. Since longtime head coach George Philpott stepped down, Tom Coxwell, Jordan Parker, Matt June and Christina McMunn all have taken turns at the helm.

Ross, who was hired about three weeks ago, is a 22-year-old freshman at Fort Lewis College, where she’s a member of the cycling team. Before that, she spent time training in triathlon at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and competing in several triathlons before deciding to head to college. Most recently, the Pennsylvania native coached a summer swim team in Erie.

After a whirlwind couple of weeks getting to know her new charges and getting things in order, Ross is ready to get meet No. 1 under her belt – today’s home event against Delta, Fruita Monument and Grand Junction at 4 p.m. at the FLC pool.

“Already, I’m just so happy with the attitude and the positivity of the team. They just seem so close. ... I’m excited to have a meet and start to get to see where the girls are at ... in kind of a race atmosphere,” Ross said.

She’ll be inheriting a young roster with a sizeable freshman population, as well as some experienced talent. The Demons did graduate Katie Ambrecht – their lone championship final qualifier at state – Katie Kroening, Carly Merryman, Cindy Nguyen, Megan Piccoli, Brennan Stottlemyer and Jordan Warren from last year’s squad, which does leave a few holes to fill.

But a handful of state qualifiers return for DHS, paced by seniors Hannah Chapman and Haley Cotgageorge and junior Brooke Kniffin. Bonne Matheson and Rydell Stottlemyer return after swimming on state relay teams as well, and Kniffin said the team is high on freshman Annie Mummery.

With a fair amount of depth and more experienced divers, DHS is setting its sights on beating out powerhouse Montrose for a district title and sending more swimmers into the championship finals at state. Breaking a few school records along the way wouldn’t be unwelcome, either.

Diving is a huge key to topping the district list. Montrose typically uses experienced divers to pick up points that used to elude Durango. But after finding some willing divers a year ago, the Demons deficiency in that area has dwindled, with the denizens of the deep end having a year of experience.

Starting the season at home is a boost for one of the school’s most traveled teams – they have just two home meets all season. Helpful, too, is the large freshman class, which Ross said was the most sizeable of all the classes on the roster. It locks in what should be a sizeable roster for years to come and gives DHS plenty of room to mix and match events.

“Our freshman year, we won districts, and that’s because we had a lot of freshmen,” said Chapman, daughter of Michael Chapman and Desire’e Lopez.

And the swimmers have taken to the person in charge of those decisions rather quickly.

“It’s nice to have someone, no offense, that actually has been swimming, like, recently,” said Cotgageorge, daughter of Ed and Lauren Cotgageorge.

“She knows what she’s doing. She’s really nice. It should be a good season,” said Kniffin, daughter of Kelly and Rick Kniffin.

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