Steamboat swimmers competing at Colorado Long Course State Championships
Avery Harrington, girls 11 and 12 division: 100 fly, 50 breast, 200 free, 200 medley, 200 breast, 100 breast, 50 back, 200 medley relay and 200 free relay.
Parker Kortas, girls 11 and 12 division: 50 breast, 200 breast, 100 breast, 200 medley, 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay; and girls 14-and-younger: 100 breast and 200 breast.
Jenna Smith, girls 10-and-younger division: 50 free, 50 breast, 100 back, 100 breast, 50 back, 50 fly and 100 free.
Reilly Mewborn, girls 11 and 12 division: 50 free, 50 back and 200 medley relay.
Lucy Wilson, girls 11 and 12 division: 50 free, 100 free and 200 medley relay.
Frank Ruppel, boys 14-and-younger division: 200 free, 100 fly, 100 free, 100 back, 200 back and 200 fly.
Brooks Birkinbine, boys 11 and 12 division: 50 free.
Steamboat swimmers finish well at Western Slope Championships
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct that Rylee McLouth finished first in the 25 back.
The Steamboat Springs Swim Team will head to the Colorado Long Course State Championships with a ton of momentum after last week’s showing at the Western Slope Championships.
The local team was led by a strong individual showing in the 13 and 14 division from Frank Ruppel, who placed first in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 back, 200 back, 100 fly and 200 fly. Other first-place finishes came from Parker Kortas, who placed first in the 50 breast, 100 breast and 200 breast in the girls 11 and 12 division. Her teammate Avery Harrington placed first in the 50 fly and 50 back in the same age division.
In the younger age divisions, Becca Fahrner earned titles in the 25 free, 50 free, 25 breast and 25 fly for the 8-and-younger group, with Rylee McLouth finishing first in the 25 back. Ten-year-old Jenna Smith brought home first-place finishes in the 50 free and 200 individual medley in the 10-and-younger division.
The Steamboat Springs girls finished first overall in their division, and the smaller boys team placed seventh overall. Steamboat finished fifth out of 17 teams.
Steamboat Springs Making the cut to compete in the Colorado Long Course State Championships has been a longtime goal of 12-year-old Brooks Birkinbine.
During the past three years, he has done everything possible to get invited to the big, end-of-season meet. But each time, he has come up just short of the qualifying time and his goal.
“I never let it get me down,” Birkinbine said. “I just kept trying my hardest. As I’ve gotten older, my times just seem to keep getting faster.”
Birkinbine was hoping to finish the 50 free in 34.29 seconds or less at one of six meets this summer, but the time proved to be elusive.
His final opportunities to qualify came at last weekend’s Western Slope Championships in Grand Junction, where he hoped to make the time with a top performance in the 50 free or by recording a top split in the 100 free as a last resort.
He didn’t make the cut in the 50 free, where he finished with a time of 35.87, but thanks to a special qualifying measure that allows coaches to use a swimmer's split in the 100 free, Brooks had one last shot to make it to the state championships. He made the most of his opportunity.
“He needed to drop more than a second in the 50 free,” coach Jill Ruppel said. “That’s a lot in that race. There is no room for error. He needed to put his head down and go.”
Since the 100 free doesn’t stop halfway through, Birkinbine’s hopes were in the hands of three coaches and their stopwatches. Each coach recorded Birkinbine's split at the halfway point of his race, and the average of those three times would determine whether the Steamboat swimmer was fast enough to earn and invitation. Birkinbine was smiling after the race when he learned his time of 34.26 was just good enough to get him to state.
Ruppel said this type of determination is a common thread among all of the Steamboat swimmers headed to Grand Junction this weekend for the Long Course State Championships, more commonly referred to as the Junior Olympics.
Other swimmers earning their place include Avery Harrington, Parker Kortas, Reilly Mewborn, Frank Ruppel, Lucy Wilson, Birkinbine and Jenna Smith.
Smith, who qualified for her events at two meets this summer, said she is looking forward to competing this weekend.
“I just want to have fun, and try as hard as I can to do well,” Smith said. "I think every swim meet is the same. All you can do is try your hardest and hope for a personal best.”
Steamboat also had three swimmers qualify who will not make the trip. Samantha Terranova, one of the team’s top swimmers, has elected to skip the meet to prepare for the Zone Championships, which will take July 31 to Aug. 4 in Clovis, Calif. Taylor Kortas injured her back and will not compete, and Lily Starkey will not make the trip.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com
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