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Three south metro area high school girls swim and dive teams had top 10 finishes at the CHSAA Girls 4A State Championships, which concluded Feb. 10.
Valor Christian finished third, Heritage was fourth and Highlands Ranch finished in a three-way tie for sixth place at the meet in Thornton. Colorado Springs’ Rampart High School completed an undefeated season with the state championship.
Heritage and Valor Christian each won first place in three individual events. Heritage’s Kylie Andrews won the 100- and 200-yard freestyle en route to being named the 4A Swimmer of the Year.
“Everyone here is the best of the best. The competition is as good as it’s going to be, so it makes me excited,” Andrews said. “My relationship with friends on this team and on other teams makes this priceless. It really helps to have the support of my team behind me. It makes us better as a team.”
Andrews, a senior, won both events by mere hundredths of a second over the elite competition and is headed to the University of Houston next season to compete on the Cougars’ swim team.
“I felt most at home there and the coach and the team seem really welcoming and really good,” she said. “I’m going to continue to work hard and improve myself. I’m really happy that these blessings and opportunities are coming for me. It’s a chance to better myself.”
As Andrews leaves Heritage, her mantle of two-time defending state champion could be grabbed by freshman teammate Anna Shaw, who won first place in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.54, beating several upperclassmen in the event.
“I’m excited,” Shaw said. “It was a big team effort today. Here at state, it’s a lot different with all age levels and it’s more competitive, but it’s the same spirit of fun.”
Shaw also finished fourth in the 100-yard freestyle, where she competed against eventual champion Andrews. In her next three years at the school, Shaw said she wants to improve in the same events, while also branching out to other areas.
“I want to try out some new events and see what I can do in those,” she said.
Meanwhile, Valor Christian picked up three of the final awards at state. Lori Stenstrom won Swim Coach of the Year, while her colleague Alton Irvin won Dive Coach of the Year.
Valor Christian showed up as a dominating team in the relays, winning the 400-yard freestyle relay and setting a new 4A state record in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:35.90.
“I’m so proud of them,” said Stenstrom, whose team also includes two of her daughters, junior Lindsay and freshman Ashley. “We had to overcome so much adversity this year and they had to dig deeper than we could have imagined. Their hearts and their desires to finish third in the state with the adversity we had to go through shows they can do anything.”
Part of the adversity that the Valor Christian team overcame this year was the injury to last year’s diving state champion Izzi Mroz, who spent the entire regular season nursing a stress fracture. However, Mroz returned to dive in the state championships, where she reclaimed her title, finishing in first place over Rampart’s Maggie Buckley by just 0.15 points.
“I didn’t think going into it that I could win state,” Mroz said. “It’s been pretty rough, but my parents always say that they don’t raise quitters, so I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to quit, and I was going to fight through it. The win feels really good right now, especially over the competition here.”
Mroz, a senior, was named the 4A Diver of the Year after the state championships. She has accepted a scholarship to Virginia Tech University, where she will be competing on the diving team.
Stenstrom said the award for coach of the year was a humbling and meaningful award for her.
“It means everything. The reason is that this is an award voted on by my peers and I have so much respect for them,” Stenstrom said. “To see all that the other coaches do to put so much heart into their girls, and then for them to honor me, I’m really humbled.”
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