In the swim of things, Griffins hungry in pool

Sam Leonhart flys it

This year’s District 51 boys swim team is different than in past years.

Behind the personalities of their co-captains, Ben Krane and Sam Leonhart, the Griffins are deeper, meaner and tougher.

Krane and Leonhart are Fruita Monument seniors and returning state meet qualifiers.

Given their experience and leadership, the two have all but been given the reins by Griffins coach Dale Leonhart.

“We try to keep everyone motivated,” Sam Leonhart said. “We try to keep their heads right, and make sure everyone has the goal of the Western Slope Championship meet in their minds at all time.”

On a team made up of 28 swimmers from Grand Junction, Fruita Monument and Central high schools, Dale Leonhart said the two captains do a good job of leading the team.

“Ben and Sam complement each other well,” Dale Leonhart said. “Ben is, lacking a better word, the more macho of the two. He will say, ‘I am going beat that guy,’ then go do it.”

Krane has only been swimming since his sophomore year, but developed into one of the stronger swimmers on the Western Slope. Krane has already qualified for the state meet in the 100-yard butterfly and the 50 freestyle.

“Qualifying early actually puts more pressure on me because now I have more time to get better,” Krane said. “So the harder I train now, the better I can do in state.”

The Griffins next swim April 11 in Durango.

Leonhart hasn’t qualified for state in his individual events yet, but is a part of all three relay teams that have qualified. Leonhart has made a state cut every year, and Dale Leonhart said Sam is type of captain that creates team chemistry.

“Sam is more the interpersonal, politician type guy,” Dale Leonhart said. “He takes care of everyone and makes sure things are smooth.”

Sam Leonhart and Krane have done a good job at the top of the Griffins’ lineup, but what has made District 51 so tough this year has been its depth.

District 51 has talented swimmers in Tyler Walton, Brett Scott, Nick Neste, Ian Smith and Kimani Robinson.

“We are a diverse team,” Sam Leonhart said. “We have a wide range of people with different skills.”

Walton is a sophomore, who Dale Leonhart said is the Griffins’ best overall swimmer. He has already qualified in the 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke.

Walton isn’t the only young swimmer contributing. Neste and Robinson are both up-and-coming freshmen.

“Both Nick and Kimani are extremely strong,” Dale Leonhart said. “Their physique is fit for the short sprint format that is high school swimming.”

At the midway point of the season, the Griffins have already gotten a good number of state cuts. Dale Leonhart said the early qualifying doesn’t change the Griffins approach.

“It doesn’t change our training dynamic,” the coach said, “because what we are after is a big finish.”


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