The momentum kept building and building.
The Fossil Ridge High School girls swimming team opened the Class 5A state finals with a 200 medley relay win.
That wasn’t a surprise.
Then a wave of result after result, expected and unexpected alike, had the SaberCats stockpiling points.
For just a few minutes, it looked like powerhouse Regis Jesuit — the two-time defending state champs — might overtake Fossil Ridge, but in the end there was no doubt.
The SaberCats won the 5A state title at a raucous Edora Pool Ice Center by 70 points, 347 to Regis’ 277.
“I’m pretty excited about the whole thing. Even the Denver teams were like, ‘We’re rooting for you,'” senior Bailey Nero said. “It’s really special to finish off my high school career. It’s a lot of excitement and a lot of emotions.”
Nero was the anchor of an incredible show of team depth.
She won the 200 IM in 1:59.20, and set a state record to repeat as 100 butterfly champion in a time of 53.22 seconds.
She swam on the winning 200 medley relay team and was the anchor in the final statement of the night, the 400 free relay.
Even though Fossil Ridge had the title secured, the 400 freestyle relay was the main event. Nero tracked down top-seeded Regis’ Taylor Wilson in the anchor leg amid ear-splitting noise from the crowd to give the SaberCats the title in 3:25.26, just 0.23 seconds ahead of Regis.
Sophomore Bailey Kovac also repeated as a state winner, taking home the 100 breaststroke in a time of 1:03.03.
While Fossil Ridge’s stars shined bright, it was the team’s depth that allowed for the dominant victory. Throughout the lineup, SaberCat swimmers outperformed their seedings.
Quinn Fawcett finished fifth in the 200 free after being seeded 12th. Riley Hoffman was sixth in the same race as a nine-seed. Savannah French went from the 33rd seed in the 200 free to finish 13th.
Cameron Kovac went from 18th to 11th in the 200 IM. Bayley Stewart went from 15th in the 500 freestyle to an eighth-place finish. Lesley-Ann Knee was seeded 23rd in the 100 backstroke but took 15th. Diver Hailey Nelson finished fifth.
“It’s so exciting because you rely on your teammates and they do these amazing things and it just inspires you,” said Jayden Glover, who finished third in the 100 breaststroke. “I don’t know how else to put it. It makes you want to swim so fast.”
Fossil Ridge swimming and diving celebrate’s their 2015 title win in the 5A state championship meet, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, at EPIC in Fort Collins, CO. Fossil Ridge left with the team title, winning with 347 points to Regis Jesuit’s second place finish of 277 points.
After receiving the trophy for the team title, the SaberCats all lept into the pool in the traditional celebration. After a season of thinking they could bring the title back after winning in 2012, it was a perfect end to a perfect season.
“It was an incredible pool of talent and they were up against some incredible, big-time swimmers and they really pulled through,” Fossil Ridge coach Tasha Marchant said. “They swam beyond any expectation I had. They were brilliant this weekend.”
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Other local results
Fort Collins — Elise Forzley finished third in the 100 butterfly in a time of 55.52, and fifth in the 100 backstroke in 56.63. Morgan McCarthy finished 13th in diving.
Poudre — The Impalas didn’t make any finals.
Rocky Mountain — The 200 freestyle relay team of Daphne Williams, Madi Higdon, Amy Fromme and Emily Barrier finished 10th in the 200 freestyle relay in a time of 1:39.77, an impressive improvement over their 26th seed entering the meet.