Swim team closes season with fourth-place finish

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The Steamboat Springs relay swim team, from left, Lucy Franklin, Amy Brodie, Meghan Lukens and Emma Lichtenfels, continued its summer season winning streak at this weekend's Colorado Western Slope Championships in Rangely, where it won the 400-meter freestyle and 400-meter medley relays in the girls ages 13 to 14 division. The girls' relay team qualified for the Junior Olympic state championships, starting Thursday in Grand Junction.

— After a summer swim season that started in May and ended for Steamboat Springs Team Lightning last weekend, coach Essi Kenttala can look back at plenty of successes having won multiple meets as a team.

When assessing the Colorado Western Slope Championships last weekend in Rangely, it was the numbers that jumped out at Kenttala. Scanning the stacked pages of results, she focused on the negatives - meaning the row of subtracted times showing individual improvements in given events.

"Look at all the minuses, it's beautiful. We're not talking about milliseconds," Kenttala said, pointing out swimmers like Olivia Rose, Frank and Madison Ruppel, Wesley Park, Penn Lukens, Lucy Newman, Brad Hoefer, Lucy Franklin, Willy Gunn and Katie Brodie, all of whom shaved more than 10 seconds off event times. "The best part is personal improvement - as a coach, it's a goal when you can achieve your best times in the last week."

Steamboat finished in fourth place as a team behind Montrose, Durango and Grand Junction. The girls team finished in third, and the boys finished in sixth. There were 16 teams at the meet.

Kenttala noted the lack of any Steamboat swimmers ages 15 to 18 contributing to point totals.

"The biggest difference is the other teams can swim all winter with a lot of high school-age kids that swim year-round," Kenttala said. "When you turn 15, you have to decide on a sport, and without facilities in the winter, the Steamboat kids don't have a choice if they want to keep swimming."

Kenttala still sees faster times on the horizon next summer, as many swimmers will move to the top of their age categories. So does Trish O'Connell, who coached the 8-and-younger swimmers, 11 of which competed and made strides at the championships.

"We concentrated on technique and the speed just got faster and faster," O'Connell said, pointing to overall 8-and-younger girls point winner Keala Fraioli and boys runner-up Frank Ruppel. "Each one of the kids took off time - substantial time - in every race they were in. It was their last hurrah, and they went out as heroes."

Steamboat will be well represented this weekend at the state's junior Olympics meet in Grand Junction. Six relay teams will compete as will Emma Lichtenfels and Penn Lukens, who qualified individually in the 100-meter breaststroke and 200 backstroke, respectively.

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