Schlagel has high hopes for final time swimming as a Tiger

Kelsey Schlagel starts the 50 m freestyle sprint.

This is Kelsey Schlagel’s last opportunity to achieve her swimming goals.

The Grand Junction High School senior will participate Friday and Saturday in her fourth state swim championships at the Edora Pool and Ice Center in Fort Collins. She’s hoping to make it to the finals for the first time.

The Tiger swimmer qualified for this weekend’s meet in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100 breaststroke. Schlagel has qualified every year in the breaststroke but this is her first time swimming the 200 freestyle.

Grand Junction coach Dale Leonhart said Schlagel has always been more of a breaststroke swimmer, but the freestyle might be her stronger event.

“The 200 free is probably her best race for this meet,” Leonhart said. “She had a problem with her knee over the summer, so we have done a lot more freestyle training. She has a lot more confidence in the 200 than she does the breast.”

Schlagel said she didn’t plan to swim the freestyle event before season, but once she tried it, she decided it was another chance to reach the state meet.

“Once I swam it, I thought I might as well go for it,” Schlagel said. “It is something different because I have been always a breaststroker.”

Schlagel qualified in the freestyle at the District 51 Championships in 2 minutes, 3.33 seconds, but improved her time to 2:01.85 at the Western Slope Championships last weekend in Durango, which will help her seeding at state. Leonhart said he has high expectations for Schlagel in the event.

“I think in the 200 free she will be able to take it out fast and because of her mental toughness she will be able to hold onto it,” Leonhart said. “You have got to swim it right. If she can break two minutes she probably can come back and race on Saturday.”

This is not Schlagel’s first time swimming a freestyle event at the state championship. As a sophomore, Schlagel finished 36th in the 50-yard freestyle in 26.17.

Last year Schlagel swam the 200 individual medley and finished 34th in 2:21.50.

Although she has qualified in other events, the staple of Schlagel’s career has been the 100-yard breaststroke. She has qualified for the event every year, making it in at 1:12.60 this year. She has improved in the event every year, finishing 23rd in 1:11.28 at last year’s meet.

It has always been her most comfortable race, but she said her expectations aren’t as high as they have been in previous years.

“With the breast, I just want to get my time down,” Schlagel said.

Leonhart said they haven’t been practicing as much on the breaststroke event but he still has high hopes.

“She has been considerably faster, particularly last year, when that was her focus,” Leonhart said. “To swim in the finals, the girls are swimming in the low nine (1:09.00) and she realizes that is a leap.”

Regardless, Schlagel has accomplished something that is not easy to do by qualifying for the state meet every year. She’s hoping to cap her career by reaching the championship finals.

“I have always had the goal of making the finals,” Schlagel said. “I was sick last year and this year I want to end my senior year right.”

Leonhart has seen Schlagel develop into a strong swimmer and hopes she ends her senior season in a memorable way.

“I have seen her maturation, her development and her increased confidence in herself in becoming a seasoned competitor,” Leonhart said. “She has been there and competed. In the meet the first year she was a participant and now she see herself as a competitor.”


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