Olympic fever hit Fort Collins early.
With local swimmer Zoe Bartel in the semifinals of the 200-meter breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Thursday, the buzz was palpable.
More than 70 Fort Collins Area Swim Team (FAST) members gathered at The Boot Grill in Fort Collins to cheer on Bartel, one of their own, as she competed at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
The gathering had been planned early in the week, then Bartel turned it into a full on party with her stunning performance Thursday.
The junior at Fossil Ridge High School entered the prelims of the 200 breaststroke seeded 31st. She jumped all the way up to 13th Thursday morning with a time of 2:28.94 to be one of 16 (out of 123) to qualify for semifinals.
Some 540 miles away from the pool in Omaha, the huge FAST gathering was buzzing for the semifinals Thursday night. They shouted “good luck Zoe” into cameras and watched almost in awe as she swam in front of a national audience on NBC.
School affiliations were out the window; this was city pride with everyone pulling for the local kid.
In the semis Bartel shaved more time, going 2:28.17 to hold 13th position. The top two qualified for the Rio Olympics, but Bartel’s feat is nothing short of outstanding.
The 15-year-old was by far the youngest swimmer to qualify for the semis, at least three years younger than all other competitors.
The semifinal swim capped a strong showing from Bartel at the trials. In addition to placing 13th in the 200 breaststroke, she also finished 24th in both the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM earlier in the week.
Fossil Ridge junior Bailey Kovac also had a strong showing in the 200 breaststroke prelims Thursday. She entered seeded 124th but shaved two seconds off her seed time and finished 43rd in a time of 2:32.89.
Windsor senior Morgan Friesen finished 69th in the 200 breaststroke in a time of 2:34.65.
Friday is the last day of trials in which locals will compete, unless any advance to the finals on Saturday. On Friday, Fossil Ridge junior Bayley Stewart will race in the 200 backstroke. Fort Collins grad and TCU freshman Elize Forzley will also compete in the 200 backstroke. Fort Collins grad and University of Texas sophomore Max Holter will race in the 100 butterfly.
The meet runs through Sunday.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.
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