FORT COLLINS — Head coach Jeanne Godaire didn’t want her team to look too far ahead. But once the Evergreen Lady Cougars qualified for 18 spots in the finals of the 4A state girls swimming championships, it was their title to lose.
This year, they wouldn’t lose it.
A year after a disqualification in the meet-opening 200-yard medley relay cost Evergreen its first state championship, the Lady Cougars were never threatened. Evergreen dominated from start to finish, ending up with 332.5 points on Feb. 15 at the Edora Pool Ice Center. Three-time defending champion Thompson Valley was second with 244 points, while Cheyenne Mountain was third with 233.5.
“The girls stayed really focused throughout the whole meet. They were about getting the job done, swimming their best in every race,” Godaire said. “This year was a lot about the numbers, as well as the individual swims, as well as the relays. They did an awesome job of staying focus and not thinking too far ahead.”
Evergreen, which finished third in 2013 and second in 2012, avenged last year’s 200 medley relay with a victory this go-around. The foursome of Lindsay Morrow, Josie Pearson, Bailey Smith and Kamryn Holland — all juniors — combined for a time of 1 minute, 48.28 seconds. They edged second-place Manitou Springs by 0.6 seconds. It was the first of three wins on the day for the Lady Cougars.
“We have a lot of really speedy girls, so definitely it’s the depth, like in the 100 free, where we had three girls make it back to the top eight. That was a really good showing for Evergreen,” said Morrow, who took first in the 200 individual medley in 2:05.29 and the 100 backstroke in 55.69 seconds.
Morrow set the 4A state record in the backstroke a day earlier in the preliminaries in a time of 55.63 seconds. All three wins were either an All-America time or considered All-America time. “We’ve been working so hard this year,” she said.
Like the week before, when Jeffco rival D’Evelyn had twice as many victories as Evergreen, and Thompson Valley finished with one more victory than Evergreen. But the Lady Cougars’ ammo came with sheer numbers. A team predominately made up of underclassmen — Evergreen will graduate just three seniors — the Lady Cougars had multiple finalists in six of the nine individual events. That included the 1-meter diving competition, in which sophomores Katrin Lewis (403.45 points) and Bailey Mills (385.8) placed fifth and eighth, respectively. The only event Evergreen didn’t have a finalist in was the 50 freestyle.
“We had a lot of really good swimmers join the team this year,” said freshman Kate McDonald, who placed second in the 500 freestyle and tied for third in the 200 freestyle. “The upperclassmen really helped us become better swimmers. They kind of showed the way.”
Smith, Pearson and Anna McDonald each placed in the top seven in two events, while Katelyn Kenchel (fifth in the 100 freestyle), Holland (seventh in the 100 freestyle) and Kara Coughlin (seventh in the 500 freestyle) added to Evergreen’s medal haul. Coughlin and Holland also had a pair of consolation final appearances.
With each passing event, winning a team title wasn’t in much doubt, but Evergreen wasn’t taking any chances. Its focus with each race was to go full-speed ahead and to leave little doubt in the process.
“We were just so excited that we really didn’t pay attention to what they were saying about the score throughout the meet. Every single race we gave 100 percent. It was a not a matter of looking ahead or behind. It was about putting all of our heart into it,” Holland said.