Prep swimming: Happy returns for Demons

Jon Mitchell
Glenwood Springs High School senior Zach Baker swims down the homestretch of the 100-yard backstroke during the Western Slope Swimming Championships at the El Pomar Natatorium in Grand Junction on Saturday. Baker won the event with a personal-best time of 54.89 seconds.
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent |

GRAND JUNCTION — Zeb Thorsen was in no way, shape or form happy with his time and finish in the 100-yard backstroke in the Western Slope Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday.

He was, however, more than happy for teammate Zach Baker, whose time of 54.89 seconds in the event was good enough to give the Glenwood Springs High School senior not only a first-place finish, but a personal-best time in the event that he’d been waiting close to two years to break.

“I had this guy to motivate me,” said Baker, referring to his junior teammate sitting next to him.

“You didn’t beat my record, did you?” Thorsen asked, referring to what he said was a time of 54.82 during a club meet in Iowa this past summer.

It was pretty close, for sure.

Regardless of how close those times were to each other, the performances of Thorsen and Baker in the event were the Demons top individual finishes during the meet held at the El Pomar Natatorium. Those finishes in the backstroke, along with a second first-place finish from Baker and some solid finishes all around, gave the Demons a third-place finish in the five-team meet.

It wasn’t the third-place finish, however, that Glenwood Springs coach Steve Vanderhoof was really excited about. What made him happy was that, thanks to Saturday’s performance, each of the eight swimmers on Glenwood’s roster have qualified for state individually and as part of a relay team.

“I’m very pleased with today,” the coach said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

The meet’s team title was won by the District 51 Griffins, a team that combines each of Grand Junction’s four high schools into one team. The sheer number of people on that team helped the Griffins finish with 401 points, with Montrose (364) and Glenwood (264) following.

Baker, who also won the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:02.15 that was good enough to beat the 5A state qualifying standard, had been waiting nearly two years to beat his previous top time in the 100 backstroke. That time of 55.7 was beaten by nearly a second.

“Everything went right today,” Baker said.

Thorsen said his turns and underwater glides weren’t where he wanted them to be, which is what he felt led to his third-place finish behind the Griffins’ Travis Newland. Still, Vanderhoof said that a preliminary time in the low 54s could give both swimmers a chance to make the championship final at the Class 4A State Championships, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.

“It would be a dream come true to swim next to him in the state final,” Baker said.

The Demons also had some individuals meet other state-qualifying standards in several events.

Among them was Phillip Hecksel, whose third-place time of 1:58.98 in the 200 freestyle qualified him for state in the event. Also meeting a 4A standard was Connor Somers, who was fifth in the 100 freestyle in 53.61. A.J. Lee met the 4A standard for the first time in the 100 butterfly with his sixth-place time of 58.73, and Jon Birzon, who finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.60, qualified for that event for the first time.

Glenwood has also qualified each of its relay teams in the 400 freestyle relay, the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay. One of the Demons’ relay swimmers, senior Luke Herron, finished second in the 50 freestyle in 22.68.

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