Wild on the swimming mat

Jessica Fischer, from Fruita Monument High School diving into the pool for the last leg of the Girls 400 yard Medley Relay

In sports, no two teams will ever have the same personalty.

That is why building team chemistry is so important for coaches. Saturday at the Southwestern League relays, most coaches took the opportunity to open the girls swim season as a way to get to know their team.

First year Fruita Monument coach Jessica Haley decided to let her seniors decide the relay teams, and it worked out well as the Wildcats finished in second place with 212 points.

“Our seniors made the lineup because it is our meet that is designed to be fun,” Haley said.

“We are here to build our team and the girls are really excited about the end result today.”

Fruita did not win any of the relay events, but finished in the top six in six of the 10 events, including a second-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke relay in 2:46.59.

“I have been so impressed with the girls and they have come a long way already,” said Haley who was an assistant coach at Legacy High School before taking over the Wildcats. “They have a lot of talent and have helped lead me through because Western Slope swimming is different than the Front Range.”

Gunnison won the relays with a team score of 262. The Cowboys finished first in four events, including the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:55.41. Montrose finished third with 202, followed by Glenwood Springs (200), Aspen (196), Montezuma-Cortez (152), Delta (148), Grand Junction (120), Moffat County (116) and Palisade/Central (112).

The Tigers are young this season and their eighth-place finish is right where Dale Leonhart expected the swimmers to be.

“The girls performed about the way I expected them to given the youth of our club,” Leonhart said. “Better than half of them, this is their first competitive swimming adventure and there was the usual excitement, but there was also the aspect of a brand-new experience. We had a couple of misfires they normally wouldn’t have committed.”

The Tigers’ top finish was in the 500-yard freestyle relay, where they finished third in
5:40.24. Leonhart said after completing the first meet, he now expects to see progress.

“I look for them to improve, as they are a hard-working crew,” Leonhart said. “Three weeks ago, a third of them couldn’t even get down the pool, and today everyone contributed. The team chemistry is there and in the long haul this will be a really fun group.”

The Tigers finished fourth in both the 200-yard backstroke relay and 400-yard medley relay.

“We are starting near the bottom of the pile but that doesn’t matter because that is not where we are going to end up,” Leonhart said. “I am pretty excited about what they showed today.”


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