Divers drive Glenwood girls swim team hopes to repeat as conference champions

Glenwood Springs High School diving team members, from left, Juliet McGill, Abby Scruton, Libby Claassen and Celia Scruton, in their natural environment on the springboard at the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool.
John Stroud/Post Independent

A quartet of Glenwood Springs High School girls who are in and out of the water fairly fast compared to their swimming counterparts look to key the Demons girls swim team hopes to defend its 3A Western Slope conference title this weekend.

A big part of the Lady Demons’ success in winning several dual and multi-team events this season has been the diving team, which has put in hundreds of hours of training since September to take their skills to the next level.

Coached by Lara Claassen, a former competitive diver herself, all four members of the dive team — Juliet McGill, Libby Claassen, Abby Scruton and Celia Scruton — have already qualified for next week’s Class 3A state competition in Thornton, along with a host of Demon swimmers.

Also pre-qualified for state among the Glenwood swimmers are: 

  • Amy Madsen, sophomore, multiple events
  • Ellie MacPherson, sophomore, multiple events
  • Halley Diemer, senior, multiple events
  • Kylee Smith, junior, multiple events
  • Sally McDonnell, senior, 500 freestyle
  • Sophie Moon, junior, 200 IM, 100 breaststroke
  • Molly Hancock, senior, 100 breaststroke

All of the Demons swimmers and divers will be looking to earn some critical team points for the Demons and hone their skills at the conference championships Friday and Saturday at the Colorado Mesa University aquatics center in Grand Junction.

Cross-sport talents

For senior dive team members McGill and Celia Scruton, and juniors Claassen (Lara’s daughter) and Abby Scruton (Celia’s sister), diving has offered a diversion from other sports.

“I had been a gymnast for 11 or 12 years, and used to go to Gypsum to train,” McGill said. “I just felt like the drive would be too much in the winter every day, and so I decided to try diving instead.” 

After practicing on the springboard over the summer to get the hang of it, McGill’s gymnastics skills kicked in and she was quickly performing on par with her veteran teammates.

“My gymnastics background definitely made it a lot easier. I know how to do the somersaults and all those things … it was just a matter of learning how to do it on a board.”

The Scruton sisters and Libby Claassen are also multi-sport athletes, most notably Celia Scruton, who just signed to play college soccer at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. 

“I was playing basketball my first two years of high school, but ended up diving because of my sister,” Celia Scruton said. “I just wanted to be with her my last two years, and I ended up falling in love with diving and being part of the team.”

The only real crossover from soccer to diving is the mental game, she said.

“If I get frustrated on the board, it shows, and that’s the same way it is with soccer,” she said. “I just try to be relaxed and confident, knowing that I’m capable of doing what I’m doing.”

Abby Scruton, who is the Demons’ goalie on the soccer team in the spring, had doubled up as a member of the cheerleading squad, but decided to join Claassen on the dive team last year.

“It’s gone pretty well,” she said. “We have this great team dynamic, and we’re all basically diving at the same level now because we’re all so supportive of each other.” 

Libby Claassen said her mother’s coaching has brought that talent out in all of the divers. 

“She’s always been my inspiration, so when I was a freshman and she asked me about starting a dive team, of course I said yes,” she said. “She’s the best coach that we could ever hope for, and without her, we wouldn’t be where we are today.” 

Tight bonds

GSHS diver Juliet McGill works on her form during a Wednesday practice at the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool as coach Lara Claassen looks on.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Diving coach Lara Claassen said the sister and mother-daughter components on the team can make for some interesting dynamics, but in a good way that’s part of the team’s drive.

“The transformation from three years ago has been astonishing,” she said of Libby’s freshman year.

Having been a competitive diver herself growing up in Miami, learning under a high school coach who went on to coach in the Olympics, compelled Claassen to take on diving team in Glenwood Springs.

“All of these girls are very athletic and very competitive, and they all push each other along,” Claassen said. “They have just progressed really rapidly because of the dynamic on the team.”

Swim team coach Steve Vanderhoof said the diving contingent rounds out a team that isn’t quite as strong as last year, but has the depth to defend its conference title.

“In past years we haven’t had any divers, so it kind of goes in cycles,” Vanderhoof said.

With two seniors and two juniors on the diving team this year, and none coming up through the ranks, he knows this could be the Demons’ best chance to claim another league title.

“It’s going to make a big difference for us at regionals,” Vanderhoof said. “Durango is always very strong, but we’ll score some points in diving and hopefully be ahead going into the swimming events.”

Riding the wave

The Lady Demons are coming off a team win at last weekend’s Fruita Invitational, which was held at the same venue as the regional meet this weekend.

“We also took about half the team to a four-team meet in Grand Junction on Jan. 23, and placed second behind Grand Junction,” Vanderhoof said.

Going into the final week before state, the Demons have also already qualified all three of their relay teams, the 200 medley and the 200 and 400 freestyle.

Among the state qualifiers, each can swim two individual events and two relays.

GSHS swim team coach Steve Vanderhoof gives instructions to his team members during Wednesday’s practice at the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool, as they prepare for this weekend’s 3A Regionals and West Slope Conference championships in Grand Junction.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Additional Demon swimmers could also qualify for state at this weekend’s regionals. Among the hopefuls are: Maggie Friemel in the 50 and 500 freestyle; Emma Price in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke; Sally McDonnell in the 200 IM and Molly Hancock in the 100 fly.

Vanderhoof noted that two of the regular team members are not able to swim at the conference meet, so he’ll be looking to freshmen Samantha Anderson and Anna Moon, along with sophomores Alexa Helms and Taylor Joslin, to step up in their first conference meet experience.

Competition begins Friday morning with prelims followed by the diving competition at 5 p.m.

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