He's been there three times, but Cole Worsley says not even his experience at the state meet helps calm his nerves.
"I still get butterflies," the 14-year-old said. "It's not too bad until I see the place where I'm going to swim, and then I start to get nervous again."
Cole said he doesn't relax until he jumps in the water. There, his attention shifts from the hundreds of top-level swimmers, the thousands of fans and the week's circus-like atmosphere to the swimmer in the lane next to him.
"That's all I can think about once I get in the water," Cole said. "Beating the guy in the lane next to me."
Unfortunately, Cole will have to wait until Saturday to get into the pool at the Colorado Long Course State Championships in Grand Junction.
However, several of his teammates got wet on the opening day of the events Thursday.
Cole's brother, Blake, competed in the 200-meter freestyle event Thursday. He didn't make the final heat, but he will get several more shots this week in the 100-butterfly, 100-meter backstroke, 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events.
"I really haven't been training that hard this summer," Blake Worsley said. "I'm going to be swimming in college next year, so I took things a little slower this summer."
Still, the Worsley brothers are all business in the pool -- and after winning the high-point award at last weekend's Western Slope Championships, Blake Worsley proved he is a threat in Grand Junction this week.
Another Steamboat swimmer, Emma Lichtenfels, placed eighth in Thursday's preliminary heat of the 50-meter breaststroke and was scheduled to advance to the finals.
She also is slated to swim in the 200-meter backstroke and 100-meter breaststrokes later this week.
Cole Worsley's nervousness might be related to his expectations this year.
He is scheduled to compete in the 100-meter freestyle event Saturday and in the 50-meter freestyle Sunday. He is ranked third in the state in the 50 free and thinks a top finish is within reach.
"There's a lot of pressure in the 50, because I have a chance at winning," Cole said. 'I'm trying not to think about it, but the pressure is always there."
Steamboat's Lucy Newman also qualified to swim the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke races in the meet, which is one of the largest in the state during the summer, but she elected not to go.
Steamboat also had several relay teams with state-qualifying times, but assistant coach Patty Worsley said those groups decided early in the year not to go to the state meet.