Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Winning wasn’t necessarily the primary goal Friday for the Durango High School girls swimming team, although the Demons did plenty of it.
Getting their legs back under them – or rather kicking behind them – was the focus after a sporadic training schedule over the holidays.
The overall time, not the place, was the biggest factor, even though a Durango swimmer or relay team won every event in a business-like showing.
“We knew it was more of a fun meet than anything just for that reason, because we were getting our swimming legs back,” Haley Cotgageorge said.
The Demons won both of their duals at the three-team meet, their final showing at home of the season.
The Durango girls topped Palisade/Grand Junction Central 783-548 and Montezuma-Cortez 787-355 in a fitting sendoff for their eight seniors, including a misty-eyed Cotgageorge, while Palisade/Central downed Cortez 620-399 at the Fort Lewis College pool.
It was the first competitive action for Durango since Dec. 15 at the Montrose Invite, and it began a stretch of five meets, including the Western Slope District Championships, leading into the state championships on Feb. 8 and 9.
Getting the team back into a routine after the jumbled schedule of the holidays will be critical for a Durango team looking to make more noise at state than in years past.
“Definitely a huge part of (Friday’s) meet was getting everyone off the little break that we had and kind of back in the race mode of putting in those harder efforts,” Durango head coach Kathryn Ross said.
“For sure everyone was working hard, but probably not the best times were being thrown down, and that’s to be expected when you’re training sporadically.”
Brooke Kniffin in the 50-yard freestyle (26.07 seconds) and Hannah Chapman in the 200 individual medley (2 minutes, 23.52 seconds) actually improved on their season-best times in those events in spite of the layoff, both in victorious performances that eclipsed the state-qualifying times in each event. While that may come as surprising to some expecting a rustier performance from each, Ross was unfazed.
“Both of those girls are very strong swimmers,” Ross said. “Brooke can swim those 50s and even the backstroke stuff ... and Hannah can basically swim anything.”
Kniffin, Cotgageorge, Chapman and Annie Mummery combined for a time of 1:58.70 earlier this season in the 200 medley relay, the seventh best time in Class 4A so far this season. They weren’t quite there Friday, picking up victory in 2:01.56, while Haley Warren, Madison Hoven, Bryn E. Joyner and Catherine Dellinger finished second for Durango.
Kniffin, Cotgageorge, Chapman and Mummery own the 10th best time statewide in the 200 free relay at 1:47.12, and they came off the layoff with a victory Friday in 1:50.52. Kniffin and Mummery again went 1-2 in the 100 backstroke, with Cotgageorge and Warren behind in third and fourth. Chapman and Cotgageorge earned the top two spots in the 100 butterfly, as well.
“I think it was also nice just coming back together as a team over break, because we didn’t really practice over break,” said Cotgageorge, daughter of Ed and Lauren Cotgageorge.
And with the bulk of state-qualifying times coming from that quartet, the remaining five meets will help trim down and refine the events they’ll actually swim at state.
Swimmers are eligible to compete in four individual events and one relay at state, so the biggest decision likely lies in what relay event they prefer to swim.
“That is something I just actually brought up with one of my girls is we need to figure out what you want to swim at state,” Ross said. “She has a lot that she could potentially swim.”
Of course, getting a few other individuals to state would be a nice perk, as well. And while no other DHS swimmers made state cuts Friday, they weren’t lacking for solid showings.
Elli Earl won both the 200 and 500 free races, and she teamed with Joyner, Dellinger and Katie Pannell to finish second behind teammates Hoven, Kaitlin Barela, Anna Chambers and Bonne Matheson in the 400 free relay.
Joyner added a runner-up result in the 200 IM.
Hoven and Matheson went 1-2 in the 100 breaststroke, with Caroline Tidwell and Katie Cunnion doing the same in the diving competiton.
Seniors Barela, Chambers, Chapman, Cotgageorge, Cunnion, Kaeli Mann, Matheson and Rydell Stottlemyer were honored as part of Senior Day.
“This is year No. 10 (swimming), actually. I cried. I think I was the only one that cried,” Cotgagoerge said. “I guess I’m just kind of a wimp for sentimental stuff.”