Demons pin their hopes on the relays

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

From left to right; Elli Earl, Rydell Stottlemyer, Hannah Chapman, Haley Cotgageorge, Annie Mummery, Brooke Kniffin, Hailey Warren, Catherine Dellinger and Bryn Joyner will try to light up the pool at this weekend’s CHSAA Class 4A Girls Swimming State Championships in Thornton.

By Ryan Owens Herald staff writer

It’s not that there aren’t chances for individual success; there certainly are.

But perhaps the best chance for the Durango High School girls swimming team to make a splash this weekend is through group participation.

The Demons will take three relay teams – one for each relay event – to the CHSAA Class 4A Girls Swimming State Championships this weekend in Thornton, beginning today. And they’ll be looking to crack the top three in the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relay events.

Durango has the fifth-best seed time (1 minute, 55.01 seconds) in the 200 medley and sixth-best (3:45.32) in the 400 free. The team of Hannah Chapman, Haley Cotgageorge, Brooke Kniffin and Annie Mummery swims both those events, and Chapman said they’re gunning for not only a spot in the finals but a spot in the upper echelon of finalists this weekend.

“I think that’s just what we’re looking for this year is actually placing in finals, and I think if we’re placed sixth so far, I think we can probably pull it out pretty well at state,” said Chapman, daughter of Michael Chapman and Desiree Lopez.

Kathryn Ross, in her first trip to state as Durango’s head coach, said she’s especially optimistic about the quartet’s chances in the 400 free relay, typically the final event of the meet.

“I really think that relay of Brooke, Haley, Hannah and Annie could potentially break into that top three there, especially in the 400 free relay. I watched them drop 5 seconds, a solid 5 seconds, at districts, so I have high hopes for state,” Ross said.

The third relay team helped boost Durango’s numbers on the bus trip to the Front Range. Catherine Dellinger, Bryn Joyner, Rydell Stottlemyer and Hailey Warren qualified for state in the 200 freestyle relay, cracking the 1:51.00 qualifying threshold with a time of 1:50.91 at last weekend’s district meet in Grand Junction.

Filling out the nine-person group going to state is Elli Earl, the Demons’ alternate.

Stottlemyer said the 200 freestyle team was elated to join their four teammates in Thornton.

“We were really excited,” said Stottlemyer, daughter of Kathy and Kent Stottlemyer. “I don’t think we knew right away that we had gotten it. ... It was awesome.”

Ross said she was optimistic in the 200 free squad’s ability to slide in with a time lower than the state qualifying time, even though it came down to the final meet before state, which meant that one slip-up, one disqualification could erase all that promise.

“I knew they could do it, and the whole team was just standing there ready to cheer, and I think I just had goosebumps,” Ross said. “I knew they could do it, but I was still at the same time nervous they would dive in, not get a DQ or anything. So when they hit that time, it was such a great feeling.”

The Demons will be busy in individual events, too. Chapman, Kniffin and Mummery will swim two individual events each at state, with Cotgageorge joining Kniffin in the 100 backstroke field.

Chapman is seeded 14th in the 500 free and 12th in the 100 breaststroke, putting her in a solid position to qualify for Saturday by finishing in the top 16.

But, whether she advances to Saturday or not, Chapman said her goal is to come in under her previous best times this season in each event.

“Our main goal is probably just to make a best time, even, would be great,” she said.

If seed times are any indication, Kniffin might be the individual best suited to make the most noise at state. She’s seeded sixth in the 100 back and 10th in the 50 free, with her time of 59.24 seconds just a shade more than 2 seconds off the top seed time in the 100 back.

Mummery, a freshman, will swim the 100 free and 50 free.

Now it’s all about getting to the Veteran’s Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton, getting loose and hopefully turning in some of their best swims of the year. And Ross is confident the bright lights of state won’t be a problem for her squad.

“They have experience in kind of that competitive atmosphere. ... Even for the girls that get very nervous, that this is newer for them, they have such great support around them ... it’s really easy to stay relaxed,” Ross said.

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