Finals showdown

Strong prelims set up District 51-Montrose matchup at Western Slope Championships

District 51’s Tyler Fair takes a breath during the freestyle portion of the 200-yard Individual Medley race Friday at the Western Slope Championships at El Pomar Natatorium. Fair won his heat to advance to today’s finals, where the Griffins have 19 spots in the 12 events.



The El Pomar Natatorium is a unique experience for high school swimmers in the 100-yard backstroke.

As the only event where swimmers face out of the water, most backstrokers have seen their coaches frantically paddling their hands back and forth, motioning them to kick harder.

On the second and fourth lengths of the backstroke, however, the giant scoreboard at El Pomar projects times the swimmers can see.

That helped propel Austin Acree, Cade Chapin and Samuel Lapkin into the finals of the 100 backstroke Friday, where District 51 now holds three of the six slots in the finals after a strong showing at the Western Slope Championships.

“(Acree) said he looked at the clock, saw that he could swim it in 56 (seconds), and powered through,” coach Jessica Haley said.

Acree won the 100 backstroke prelims with a time of 56:97, more than 1.5 seconds faster than the Class 5A state qualifying time.

“I would like to think that motioning them to kick motivates them, but I know a lot of swimmers that go blank when they swim and have no idea what happens when they swim,” Haley said.

“I think the biggest motivator for them is being able to see the clock. I’d like to take credit for that, but I probably can’t.”

District 51 pushed 19 into the finals in the 12 swim events, setting up a finals showdown today with Montrose, which has 16 slots in the finals.

Diving finals begin today at 9:30 a.m., with swimming finals at 1:30 p.m.

District 51 has been tapering, where swimmers focus more on form and sprinting while resting and recovering from a long season. Tapering usually causes dramatic drops in time.

“We do a lot of sprints and resting,” Haley said. “Nothing over 100 yards at a time, and we eat healthy and drink lots of water.

“I had several crazy drops in time, I’m a little floored. One of our seniors, Cade Chapin, dropped 20 seconds between his 200 free and 100 backstroke.”

Carlos Matthews qualified for state in the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle during the preliminaries, and said he benefitted from the lighter training.

“I was just focused on being calm and relaxing,” Matthews said. “I dropped so much time, I felt fresh and great, unbelievably fresh. The taper helped so much.”

Acree, who leads the team with seven state qualifications, hasn’t been tapering like his teammates.

After breaking his collarbone snowboarding, Acree returned in mid-April, and is just now regaining his full form.

“I have been training hard the past few weeks,” Acree said. “I’ve had a full recovery and have all my strength and rotation back. It feels good.”

Acree has the top seed in finals for the 100 free and 100 back. Acree was also on the 200 freestyle and 200 medley relays. Both relays finished less than two seconds behind Montrose, and Haley said, are key for District 51 to beat Montrose in the finals.

“Relays are going to be awesome to watch,” Haley said. “We’ve had some really great performances in the 100 back and 500 free that should be really huge for us come finals.”


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