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Deep Durango High School girls swimming team dives into action

Demons return 10 state qualifiers from last season
Quinn Schmidt of Durango High School is looking to complete a strong junior season after she smashed two school records and had two top-10 finishes at the CHSAA Class 3A Swim & Dive State Championship last season.

The Durango High School girls swimming team is looking to be more than just a tough team to beat, as senior Mina Willemin described the 2019-20 DHS team. She has plenty of good reasons to believe why this season could be a breakthrough for the program.

On Friday at the Fort Lewis College Natatorium, the Demons opened their season with a convincing 250-36 win over Pagosa Springs and began their season in earnest.

With 10 returning members from last year’s squad that finished in sixth place at the Class 3A state championships and its highest turnout in years with 38 swimmers, it’s no wonder Willemin is confident heading into her final season.

“I’m super excited because we have a lot more girls,” Willemin said. “They just get in the water and swim, so I admire the new girls who are coming out this year, plus the returners are super strong. It’s super important that with that big of a group, we’re all still motivated after Christmas break. There are times in the season where it’s tough to get back in the pool, and I think that’s where we’ve had some issues in the past. This year, I think we’ll be strong all the way through. Since my freshman year, we’ve been getting more and more girls. I’m really excited for the next few years to see where this program goes.”

The Demons’ 10 state qualifying returners include Willemin, Angela McManus, Rachel Thilow, Acacia Cofman, Saylor Stottlemyer, Mckenzie Rion, Erin Knight, Quinn Schmidt and divers Olivia Mummery and Alexis Behn. At state, DHS had four top-10 finishes, as Willemin finished sixth in the 100-meter freestyle race and took 10th in the 100-yard backstroke. Schmidt had a strong finish to her sophomore season after she took sixth in the 200 individual medley and finished in fifth in the 500 freestyle, shattering two school records in the process.

Schmidt also believes that with such a strong core of returners, the Demons could make a run for a top finish at the state championship meet in February.

“The training has been awesome so far,” Schmidt said. “We’ve had a lot of mixture between training groups, and it’s been really fun. Everyone has been working super hard. We had a big group that made state last year, and if we can keep it up, I think we can send even more girls this year. Coach Joyner said his team goal is for us to be ‘dangerous’, and I think we’ll really be tough in districts, and we’ve got a shot at winning it. In particular at state, we want to make a lot of ‘A’ finals, and I think that’s going to happen.”

While the Demons got off to a good start in the pool, they also had a strong night on the diving board, as DHS returns two state qualifiers and added four new divers to the squad.

Led by sophomore Alexis Behn, who took fifth at state last season, the Demons are hopeful to have another state champion diver, as her older sister Kylie won the 3A state diving title in 2018. Behn believes that even with some new faces, the dive team has caught on fast and will be well on its way to state by the time districts roll around.

“With the new divers, it’s been great and we’ve been super encouraging,” Behn said. “They’re doing amazing just getting started. Their technique is great, they’re building really strong foundations for the season and they are progressing really fast. We have three new divers in Madison LeSage, Anna Lawrence and Grace Meyer. Two of them have strong gymnastics backgrounds and all three are really catching on.”

For head coach Tom Joyner, Friday is the first step in a long season. He said he is confident the Demons can build on their strong start to the season.

“We have the Cheyenne Mountain Invitational in a few weeks and that’s always huge to see where we are at,” Joyner said. “We’ve had a lot of good success where we started from, and we’ve got a good, competitive schedule. We have a couple of home meets here in January, and we’re off to the races. I want to say that the sky is the limit, and I feel like we’ve got good chemistry, strong swimmers and an aggressive desire to want to swim well.”

bploen@ durangoherald.com

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