Swimmers start with success

Lichtenfels, O'Connell siblings take high-point honors

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— Swimming has changed for Emma Lichtenfels.

The 13-year-old is in a higher division this season, but the veteran member of the Steamboat Springs Swim Team is handling the transition well. On Saturday, she finished the season-opening Rangely Invitational with 82 points and finished as the top points scorer among girls in the 13- and 14-year-old division.

"I'm really excited," Lich--tenfels said. "I've been swimming since April 1, but it still kind of came out of nowhere. It wasn't going that well in the butterfly and the backstroke. I was surprised."

Lichtenfels won the 200-yard individual medley -- an event in which one swimmer swims all four strokes -- and the 100 breaststroke. Her time in the 100 breaststroke was 1 minute, 16.22 seconds, which was just off meet-record pace.

"That was the highlight of the meet," Lichtenfels said. "I'm not sure I qualified for the Junior Olympics with that time, but I probably did."

The two-day meet in Rangely was the first meet of the summer for Steamboat's swim team, so there is more than a month left in the competitive season. The times in Rangely were better overall than the top times from last season.

"They really swam amazingly," coach Essi Kenttala said. "They took so many seconds off from last year I couldn't believe it."

Several swimmers, such as Lichtenfels, began training in April. The rest of the team, which consists of 107 swimmers, began May 1. Only 46 swimmers competed in Rangely because of graduation and a lacrosse tournament, but Kenttala expects to have a full team soon.

Steamboat was the top team in the 8-and-younger division for girls and boys in Rangely. The 9- and 10-year-old girls also won the team title for Steamboat.

Kathleen and Finn O'Connell were the high-point scorers in the 7-and-younger division for girls and boys, respectively.

"What a bright future we are going to have," Kenttala said about the number of young swimmers within the program.

Cole Worsley, despite missing some events, finished second in the 15- to 18-year-old division. Worsley won the 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly and the 200 freestyle.

Madison Rupel was the third-highest scorer in the 9-10 division. Madison, and her older sister Lexie, 14, and younger brother Frank, 8, are new members of the Steamboat swim team. During the weekend, the siblings won a combined eight individual events.

Lexie Rupel shattered three meet records in Rangely. Her time of 1:06.94 in the 100 butterfly was more than 11 seconds faster than the previous record. Her time of 1:06.25 in the 100 backstroke was nearly three seconds faster than the previous record. Her 58.81 in the 100 freestyle was the first sub-one-minute swim for a 13- or 14-year-old in Rangely Invitational history.

"We are very lucky they are here," Kenttala said.

This year, seven coaches are working with the swim team, keeping the divisions split for training. Kenttala and Patti Worsley are working with the older swimmers. Pam Tracey is working with the 11-12 swimmers. Sara Barry has the 9-10 swimmers, and Trish O'Connell and Jessica Gray are coaching the 8-and-younger swimmers.

The next meet for the team is June 18 in Glenwood Springs.

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