Swim Demons battle for Western Slope supremacy
On a warm spring Friday, high school swim teams from the all over the Western Slope converged in Grand Junction to take part in the Western Slope League boys swimming and diving Championships.
Glenwood’s own self-funded Demons were one of six teams competing for Western Slope supremacy.
The two-day meet featured preliminaries on Friday and finals on Saturday. The top 12 swimmers during prelims earned the right to swim on Saturday, with places seven through 12 swimming in consolation finals and the top six vying for a Western Slope title.
The gentlemen Demons began Friday’s prelims in the 200-yard medley relay. Sebastian Joly, Jack Cassidy, Max Bryant and Branden Currey got things rolling for the team. The foursome dropped four seconds to clock a time of 1 minutes, 50.23 seconds and qualify in the fourth position for Saturday’s finals.
Glenwood freshman Stefan Buxman, Colorado Rocky Mountain School freshman Jon Birzon and Eagle Valley sophomore Cassidy all looked to keep Glenwood’s momentum going in the 200 freestyle.
Buxman unleashed the Buxman beast to cut four seconds from his season-best time to be the second alternate. Birzon swam with the heart of a Demon, slashing 10 seconds from his best time to claim the 12th spot.
Cassidy, Glenwood’s co-captain kept the best time trend afoot, placing third for finals in a time of 1:54.33.
The 200 individual medley featured Aspen sophomore Bryant, Vail Christian sophomore Joly and Glenwood sophomore Patrick Gucwa.
Gucwa improved his time last week by six seconds. The sophomore took an additional six seconds off on Friday to have an unfortunate disqualification on a two-hand touch call.
Joly, who was swimming inspired after a best time in his backstroke, led off in the medley relay and sliced 10 seconds from his time to qualify ninth for Saturday’s consolation finals.
Co-captain Bryant put himself in a good spot to defend his title from last year. The sophomore will meet his rival, Montrose’s Michael Barnosky, in Saturday’s final as the second seed.
Next up for the Demons in the 50 free was Buxman and Vail Christian sophomore Branden Currey. Both young men swam best times. Buxman’s 29.71 placed him 15th while Currey’s 25.22 made him the top qualifier in consolation finals.
Birzon had another tough task at hand in the 100 free. He knew he would have to swim a best time to get to swim another day. The freshman bettered his time by a little over two seconds to go 59.98, yet ended up three-tenths shy of 12th to make him the first alternate.
The 500 free prelims was close to comical, as the co-captains swam side by side throughout the 20 lengths of the pool.
Spectators thought they may have seen Bryant and Cassidy smiling at each other while breathing during the swim. The teammates made high school’s distance event look easy, as they qualified for the main event in first and second, with Bryant nabbing the No. 1 seed with a time of 5:03.9 and Cassidy finishing a blink of an eye later in 5:04.26.
After a short break, the co-captains were back in the water with Birzon and Currey swimming the 200 free relay. The Demons’ solid effort produced a best time of 1:38.71 and the three seed for finals.
Glenwood’s Gucwa, whose older brothers still own many Demon records, entered the water seeking redemption after his unfortunate disqualification in the 200 IM.
As his arms turned over, it was plain as day that young man was going to demolish his time. Six seconds-plus were erased, as Gucwa touched the wall in 1:10.49. The sophomore qualified ninth for Saturday’s show.
Joly hopped in the water a heat later looking for a berth in the next day’s event. Joly, another Demon whose older brother was a former swimming star for Glenwood, was in a two-swimmer duel from the sound of the starter. The sophomore won his heat while subtracting two seconds from his previous best time to qualify fourth for finals in a time of 1:05.72.
The last swim of Friday’s prelims featured four Western Slope Championship first-timers. The rookies showed no fear, attacking the 400 free relay, with three of the four boys swimming best times and the fourth swimming his second-best time ever.
Freshmen Birzon and Buxman teamed up with sophomores Gucwa and Joly to take nine seconds off their seed time and qualify sixth for Saturday.
After competing in 13 individual races and three relays during Friday’s prelims, the Demons had managed to qualify for Saturday’s finals in nine individual races – three relays and were alternates in two more events.
After very productive prelims, the young Demons had a looming challenge to improve on their eight best times.
Finals began Saturday with the young men hyped to score points for their team.
After the procession to the blocks for finals, the medley relay of Joly, Cassidy, Bryant and Currey was ready for action. The squad swam strong, improving their time by a couple tenths and finishing fourth for the team’s first podium visit of the day.
Second up was the 200 free, with CRMS freshman Birzon making his first appearance in a prelims-finals meet. Birzon swam the best race he had in him to finish sixth in consolation finals and 12th overall.
The 200 free final was a free for all, and Eagle Valley’s Cassidy was lucky enough to participate in this melee.
Two swimmers battled for first, about three-quarters of a body length ahead of the rest of the field. The co-captain was in the middle of the trenches contending for the bronze. When the waves finally faded, the sophomore had won the race for third in a best time of 1:51.67.
Joly continued Glenwood’s assault on times. After an amazing 10-second drop in prelims, he swam outside himself to cut an additional two seconds in consuls to place ninth.
The crowd was on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the rematch between Aspen’s Bryant and Montrose’s Barnosky from a year ago. Bryant out-touched Barnosky by .01 last year in the most exciting race of the championship.
Barnosky, the senior, got the best of the sophomore this time. The co-captain ended up in a tight race for the silver with Grand Junction’s Tyler Fair instead.
Bryant came from behind in the final 50 yards to claim second in a season-best time – and new team record – of 2:01.08, breaking Bobby Gucwa’s record from 2003 of 2:02.92.
Another rookie swimmer made his debut in the consolation finals of the 50 free.
Currey, after running in the track and field championship Thursday and Friday, put the Western Slope on notice that he has arrived and will be someone to reckoned with in the drag race of swimming for the next couple years.
The sophomore plays football and basketball as well, and it shows in his swimming starts. It was a dead heat for the first 25 yards until Currey exploded off the wall on his much improved flip-turn to take a half body length lead on the field. Currey tied for the B final victory in a time of 25.57.
It was now the co-captains’ turn to tackle 500 free.
Bryant took control of the race from the first 50, with Cassidy on his shoulder. By the 200 mark, Bryant had put a good body length on the rest of the heat, while Cassidy was fighting for second with Durango’s Jesse Rubenstein and Junction’s Carlos Matthews.
At about the 300-yard point, there was a body length between each place first through fourth with Bryant leading and Cassidy in third. The race ended with the teammates in the same positions. Bryant claimed the 500 free title in another team record of 4:55.58, besting his previous mark set last year of 4:57.57.
The 200 free relay had Glenwood in contention for third place throughout the event. Bryant, Currey, Birzon and Cassidy gave it their all to finish .05 out of third.
Gucwa shot off the wall in the 100 back B final. It was a two-man race for the consolation title, with the sophomore in the hunt. It came down to the final five yards of the race when Junction’s Jake Farnsworth took the slightest lead into the wall for the victory.
Gucwa took second in the B final, and eighth overall, while erasing another two seconds from his previous best time finishing in 1:08.75.
Joly, swimming in his first individual final, was looking to improve on his prelim swim as well. The sophomore did just that, removing just under a second to stand on the podium in the four spot with a time of 1:04.99.
The last event of the championship was the 400 free relay. After a grand parade to the blocks, Birzon, Buxman, Gucwa and Joly managed to better their time yet again while finishing sixth.
After all the points were tallied, the seven-man Demon teamed finished a respectable fourth place, with nine of 12 swims being best times and two new team records.
The team will be off to Thornton this weekend to compete in the 4A state swimming and diving championships.
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