Team Sopris starts long course season strong |

Team Sopris starts long course season strong

Joey Fetzko Special to the Post IndependentTeam Sopris' Clara Cappel competes at the recent TOPS Open.

Team Sopris Swimming, the local club swimming program for swimmers of all ages, kicked off the summer long course season this past weekend with a trip to the TOPS Open swim meet at the University of Denver.

Hundreds of swimmers from Colorado and Wyoming competed in the three-day meet at the Coors Fitness Center.

Team Sopris was represented by 19 swimmers, including several who were competing in their first-ever long course meet. While Team Sopris trains and competes year round, the fall and winter seasons, as well as high school seasons, are run in 25-yard pools.

During the summer long course season, most competition takes place in a 50-meter pool, the same format swimmers will compete in at the Olympics this summer. A long course pool is twice the length, from wall to wall, as the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool.

“Swimming long course can be intimidating, especially your first time,” Team Sopris head coach Damon Garrison said. “Three of our swimmers were competing in long course for their first time: 10-year-old Sally McDonald, 12-year-old Kristen Davis and 9-year-old Will Berkheimer. Sally’s first race was the 100 butterfly – a tough race anyway, but even tougher in long course. They all did a great job.”

Most of the team swam best times in numerous events, a difficult task for their first long course meet of the season.

In the 12-and-under morning session, several swimmers dropped more than 10 seconds in some events.

Lauren Fetzko competed well, placing in the top three in most of her events. Zoe Lyon had a ninth-place finish and Thane Newton also raced well. Kendall Knott shaved time in every event she swam.

In the 13-and-over afternoon session, 13-year-old James McMahon took off time in every event, including a 20-second drop in the 200 individual medley and nearly 30 seconds in the 200 breaststroke.

Sebastian Joly, 15, impressed with huge improvements in most of his events.

The other 13-and-over swimmers were close to or faster than their best times from last summer.

“Overall, I’m really pleased with how the team swam this weekend,” Garrison continued. “I look at the first long course meet of the season as a benchmark, and all of the swimmers are way ahead of where they were last year at this time. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season shapes up.”

As excited as the 10-year-old McDonald was to compete in the “big pool” at DU, she was even more excited to watch her swimming idol, Colorado’s Olympic hopeful, 16-year-old Missy Franklin, compete.

After racing all morning, McDonald stayed for the afternoon session and parked herself in the front row, directly behind Lane 4, where Franklin would be swimming.

While not swimming her best times, Franklin easily won all of her events. Even better, the always-gracious Franklin autographed McDonald’s swim cap and a photograph she brought with her. She also posed for a picture with McDonald and teammate Caylah Newton.

Including Franklin, there were approximately 20 swimmers at the meet who will be competing in June at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., and another swimmer who made a trials cut at the meet.

Members of Team Sopris are making the trip as well. The team will be competing in a qualifying meet in Lincoln the weekend prior, then will head to Omaha to watch the trials and train at a pool nearby.

“The Olympic Trials only happen once every four years,” Garrison said. “This is an excellent opportunity to watch the best swimmers in the world and to let our swimmers see first hand what you can achieve through a lot of hard work and dedication.

“I think our swimmers will come away from this trip pretty pumped for the rest of their season.”

Team Sopris is now accepting registration for its summer season. Information, including practice schedules, meet schedules, tryout times and more, can be found on the team’s website at

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