Steamboat Springs Last weekend's Western Slope Championships in Rangeley served as an eye-opener for many of the swimmers on the Steamboat Springs swim team.
But Cole Worsley, who finished third in the overall point standings in the 11- to 12-year-old division, hopes his finishes at the meet will fuel his efforts when he arrives at the E.P.I.C. Pool in Fort Collins Thursday for the start of the Junior Olympic Championships.
"This is it," Worsley said. "This is the meet we have been working for all season long."
Worsley has qualified to swim in seven events at the junior championships.
The 12-year-old swimmer won the 200-yard freestyle in his age division and placed second in the 50-yard breaststroke last weekend at the Western Slope Championships in Rangley.
He also took third-place in the 50-yard backstroke, 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke.
Emily Stout swam well at Rangely, finishing second in the 100-yard breaststroke and third in the 50-yard breaststroke.
Steamboat's 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley relay teams placed second in the 11- to 12-year-old division. The Steamboat 10-and under 200-yard medley team placed third.
Worsley and Stout are among 16 Steamboat swimmers who will participate in the Junior Olympic Championships this week.
"The competition is tough," said Worsley, a Junior Olympic veteran. "When you step up on the starting blocks for your first event, you just want to puke. You feel that way until you get into the water."
Worlsey doubts if his nerves will ever become accustomed to the pressure of Junior Olympics, but he said there is no better feeling than doing well at the most prestigious meet of the year. It's a feeling he hopes to enjoy this year, along with many of his teammates.
"This is the largest group of swimmers we've ever taken to the Junior Olympics," coach Essi Kentalla said. "Everyone is very excited and ready to compete this week."
The only other Steamboat swimmer competing in individual events this weekend is 10-year-old Emma Lichtenfels in the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke. Charlie Stoddard, who qualified for 10 events, is sick and will be unable to attend the meet.
"He would have been our superstar," Kentalla said. "But he's sick, and nobody feels worse about it than he does."
Despite Stoddard's absence, Kentalla is excited about her team's chances.
Steamboat will take several relay teams on the boys and girls side.
Swimmers who have qualified are Laina Weinman, Emma Lichtenfels, Eva Lambek, Anissa Corser, Stout, Michelle Lichtenfels, Emily Birch, Worsley, Brittany Long, Alex Bennett, Connor Birch, Michael Weston, Cameron Osteen, Kelsey Pierson, Mary Rose and Molly Newman.
"I'm really excited because this has been such a big year for our team," Long said. Long will compete on two relay teams in the 11-12 division. This will be her first trip to the Junior Olympics after joining the Steamboat team last year.
"This season has been so much fun, and I'm really happy to be going to the Junior Olympics with a bunch of my teammates," Long said.
The meet will begin Thursday.