McDonald goes out with top honor
GRAND JUNCTION – Ninety-nine-and-nine-tenths percent of the time, the state meet is the apex for high school swimmers.Not this time.For Glenwood Springs, the 2006-07 Western Slope regional championship meant more. Rather than an athletic contest, Saturday’s finals acted as a three-hour farewell tour for a group of girls, who have been swimming together since they were tadpoles.”I was just thinking about how much I love the girls I’ve been swimming with like Claire (Noone) and Cori (Barnes),” said senior Emily McDonald of the day. “I’ve been with them for 13 years non-stop. Just standing over there with those two meant so much to me.”McDonald, the defending Class 4A 50 and 100 freestyle state champ, qualified again months ago. A shoulder injury changed her plans midstream.Instead of saving herself for state, McDonald wanted to help her teammates earn another regional title. So she opted to compete in this meet for the team, rather than state for herself.”I was advised to stop swimming, to just cut it off two or three weeks ago,” she said. “But I couldn’t do that. I had to be here with these girls.”Despite the handicap of an injury, McDonald had enough left in that sore shoulder to pull off one last bit of individual magic.It’s a feat she accomplished so often this season, it led to her being named the WSLSwimmer of the Year, an award that was given out at the meet.Competing in the butterfly, McDonald fought through the pain to win. Her 1 minute, 1.71 mark was not her best result of the year in that event, but it was fast enough to beat runner-up Caitlin Conci by four-tenths of a second.”I was thinking this is my last high school individual race and I have to pull this out,” McDonald said. “I just had to go for it.”As she took off from the board, McDonald felt her shoulder go out.”I was thinking ‘Oh my God, this hurts.’ But, I had to keep going. There were driving forces in my head that I couldn’t recognize. That just kept me going forward,” she said.”I thought I was swimming terribly the last 25 (yards). I was thinking what is going on with me and why I’m going this slow. When I hit the wall and saw I got first, I was happy that I could pull it together for my teammates.”Despite the efforts of McDonald and others, Glenwood, with only 10 swimmers, didn’t total enough points to repeat as regional champs. The Demons, with 188 points, finished third, well back of new champ Durango’s 281 and runner-up Montrose’s 207 points.But that doesn’t mean Glenwood exited the meet down or defeated.In their last event together, McDonald, Barnes, sophomore Sierra Grove and junior Ali Schaiberger won the 400-yard freestyle relay. She broke a eight-year old pool record in the process.Buzzing in at 3 minutes, 54.37, the Demons relay shattered Grand Junction’s 1999 mark by almost a half-second.”We knew that we were going to have to go hard. And we knew this was our last event with the seniors swimming together. So it was bittersweet,” said Schaiberger, who also took third place in the 200 and 500 freestyles. “I knew this was going to be our last meet with our regular relay,” Grove said. “It just kind of pumped you up for it.”Earlier in the meet, Grove wrote herself in the Orchard Mesa Pool record books when she swam a 54.63 mark in the 100 freestyle. The time eclipsed the previous best of 55.25 set by Carrie Nixon in 1995.”My flip turns have been getting a lot better and coach (Michelle Brune) did a really good job of getting me ready,” said Grove. For good measure, the Coal Ridge High School student, who competes for Glenwood because her school does not field a girls’ aquatics team, took second place in the 50 free in 25.07, three-tenths of a second back of event winner Kelsey Conci of Moffat County.Noone’s best individual mark was third place in the breaststroke final, where she clocked in at a seasonal best 1:14.77. She has one meet left to go as a high-schooler, but this is the meet Noone said she’ll remember the most.”This is a good way to end it. Knowing people that you love are doing something that you love. It’s really surreal that you’re not going to see these girls anymore. You spend every weekend with them, three to a bed. You look at them in the eyes and say goodbye, it’s really hard.”
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The Rifle and Glenwood Springs girls tangled on Tuesday night at Glenwood’s Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium in a 4A Western Slope League contest that carried major implications in the conference standings.