It will be a season of firsts for the Thompson Valley High School Eagles girls swim team as they move into their 4A competition under a new coach and with a number of their former state-qualifying teammates now graduated. Their dominating reputation in the pool is proven, with seven conference titles and four state titles under their belt, but with the many changes, competitors will work harder than ever to take that top spot from the Eagles.
“I tell them you’re no better than your next race,” said new head coach, Dale Leonhart. “You’ve got a winning tradition, but all that means is you have a bigger target on your back.
“Our motto this year is eight and five in 2014,” he continued. He went on to explain this would mean working hard to add another conference title and state championship title to their current record.
On Thursday, Dec. 5, the Eagles opened the season in a home conference meet at the Dick Hewson Aquatic Center, dominating conference rival Longmont High School with a win of 122 - 60 over the Trojans.
The Eagles will once again benefit by a solid core of Berthoud High School swimmers joining their ranks, including seniors Piper Hall and Dani Pickert; juniors Lauren Mesikapp and Kyla Markell; sophomores Annika Jessen and Sydney Brickey; and freshmen Emily Casper and Ashlee Rome.
Except for the freshmen, the other six swam at least one season for the Eagles. Among them, the two returning state qualifiers include Mesikapp and Jessen.
Best finishes at the Dec. 5 meet included first-place finishes by Jessen in the 50-yard freestyle (28.25 seconds) and 500-yard free (6 minutes, 18.12 seconds); Mesikapp in the 100-yard butterfly (1:07.46) and 100-yard breaststroke (1:18.41); and Ashlee Rome in the 100-yard backstroke (1:14.86); along with the 200-yard free relay team A (including Pickert, Hall and Mesikapp; 1:56.77), and the 200-yard medley relay team B (including Mesikapp; 2:05.57).
Second-place finishes included the 200-yard medley relay team A (including Hall and Jessen; 2:07.95); 200-yard free relay team B (including Rome; 1:58.32); and the 400-yard free relay team B (including Pickert, Rome; 4:48.03).
The 200-yard medley relay team C (including Pickert; 2:27.38) earned third place. Pickert also earned third in the 100-yard backstroke with a 1:18.02.
As any swim coach will tell you, a winning swim team is a team with a lot of depth and ability to swim in multiple events. Along with top-place earners, other Eagles tallied their scores in the win against the Trojans.
In the 200-yard individual medley, Hall earned fourth with her 2:52.69 and fourth in the 100-yard butterfly with a 1:19.10. Casper earned fifth place in the 100-yard breaststroke with her 1:39.38.
Joining the team this year as an assistant coach is Megan Pickert, a Berthoud grad and three-time All-American swimmer for the Minnesota State University Mavericks. Pickert shared her excitement of working with the team.
“I love it. A lot of them I taught how to swim at the Berthoud Pool,” she shared. “It’s fun to coach them at the high school level, and the girls have a lot of good chemistry. I’m excited about the talent we have – everything from new swimmers to club swimmers.”
Looking forward to the season ahead, Leonhart said, “I’m pleased with their attendance and training. We’ve only been practicing for three weeks and there are a lot of skills to work on, but they’re eager and willing. We’ve got a bright future.”
Next up for the Eagles is an away meet against the Niwot Cougars that will be held on Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Centennial Pool beginning at 4 p.m.