Class 4A state swimmers sing praises of fast pool at El Pomar Natatorium

Montrose’s Dustin Cooper will be in today’s Class 4A swim finals at El Pomar Natatorium, qualifying in the 200-yard medley relay and the 100 breaststroke Friday.

Silas Almgren’s assessment that the El Pomar Natatorium is the fastest competitive pool in Colorado was shared Friday by plenty of swimmers and coaches in the Class 4A state swim championships.

“It is, straight out,” the Montrose High School boys swimming coach said. “I mean, there’s a new one in Thornton (the Veteran’s Memorial Aquatic Center) that’s also really nice. But this one’s right up there.”

Preliminary heat times proved that. Every swimmer who earned a top seed in today’s finals posted times below their seeded times, with one of those swimmers breaking a 10-year old 4A state record.

“I didn’t do anything different. I just felt great,” said D’Evelyn senior Jeff Garnier, whose preliminary time of 1 minute, 39.20 seconds in the 200-yard freestyle broke the previous mark of 1:40.16 by Montrose’s Eric Weisner in 2001. “I talked about doing different things with my turns and all. But I’m not someone who does a lot of thinking. I just do.”

The remaining field will attempt to do that today in the event finals.

Diving preliminaries begin 9:30 this morning, with swimming finals starting at 2 p.m.

And even more of those fast times may come as a result of ideal conditions that don’t usually come in typical high school meets that take place in box-like settings.

“There’s great light (at the pool), it’s deep on every end, it’s got great gutters and there’s lots of room for spectators,” Almgren said. “Swimming in a box makes a great atmosphere for sound and spectator noise, but places like that are usually very dark. Even being able to see better helps with your performance.”

Nancy Nixon of Ouray, 61, who did commentary for the Colorado High School Activities Association’s live Internet broadcast Friday, was also impressed.

Her daughter, former Montrose standout and five-time state champion Carrie Nixon, is an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin. Nancy Nixon said she’s followed her daughter to 20 Division I pools across the country, but said Mesa State’s pool is the nicest she’s seen.

Garnier wasn’t the only swimmer who agreed with Almgren that the improved conditions helped improve performance.

“You can especially see it around the walls,” said Pueblo South’s Derek Wedel, who qualified for the finals of both the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly. “A lot of places down in Pueblo, you’re slipping on the walls as you make your turns and you can’t see as well. Here, you don’t have that problem and the water feels great.”

Mullen is also feeling great, with swimmers in 10 of today’s 12 swimming finals and three finalists in the 500 freestyle. D’Evelyn has swimmers in six finals, including Garnier as the top finisher in the 200 and 100 freestyles.

Four events will feature Montrose swimmers. The Indians’ 200 medley relay team of Koysta Callihan, Dustin Cooper, Graehme Hilding and Clay Zentmeyer qualified seventh in 1:43.19, Callihan qualified eighth in the 200 freestyle in 1:50.59 and Cooper reached the 100 breaststroke final, qualifying eighth in 1:01.69.

Montrose’s 200 free relay team of Cooper, Hilding, Derek Slone and Michael Barnosky also reached the final.

Other Western Slope swimmers reaching today’s finals include freshman Max Bryant of Glenwood Springs in the 500 freestyle. Matthew Hulstine of Moffat County also reached today’s finals, posting a time of 1:00.53 in the 100 breaststroke to qualify sixth.


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