Fort Collins’ top boys swimmers earn top 5 finishes at Class 5A state championships

Fort Collins' top boys swimmers earn top 5 finishes at Class 5A state championships

Jack Ballard finished second in one event, while Johnny Walgast and Carter Ruthven each finished third in another.

There were no state champions from Fort Collins’ four Class 5A high schools at Thursday’s boys swimming and diving championships.

But there were plenty of solid performances that had coaches, swimmers and the fans who were there cheering them on and feeling pretty good about the final meet of Colorado’s first high school boys swimming season in two years.

With COVID-19 capacity restrictions removed, a few hundred fans filled the stands at Veterans Memorial Aquatic Complex and swimmers who were not competing packed the deck to cheer on their teammates and even an occasional rival swimmer.

“Relays were super fun with all the people here; it was just incredible. Super loud,” said Ballard, a Fort Collins High junior. “I haven’t experienced anything like this in a year and half, so it was just awesome.

Especially in the relays, when you’re waiting to go, it just pumps you up.”

Ballard finished second in the 200-yard freestyle, fourth in the 100 breaststroke and also swam legs on two of the Lambkins’ three relay teams.

His times in each of the individual events — 1 minute, 39.84 seconds in the 200 freestyle and 57.30 in the 100 breaststroke — were personal-bests, he said, and it was fun to see so many other Fort Collins High swimmers getting the opportunity to compete in individual races at state.

It was much the same for Walgast and his teammates at Rocky Mountain. The senior finished third in the 200 individual medley (1:52.43) and eighth in the 100 butterfly (50.11) after winning the second of three seeded heats to move past the final two finishers in the third and fastest heat. There were 30 qualifiers in each event, based on top performances during a shortened season that ended a month after classes in the Poudre School District did.

Personally, I did pretty good, but the team overall — we’re tied for fifth which is one of the best finishes Rocky Mountain has ever done,” Walgast said.

Teammate Connor Lofstrom also had a pair of top-10 finishes for the Lobos, who finished in a tie with Legacy for fifth in the final team standings. Cherry Creek took the team title with 530, followed by Regis Jesuit (400.5), Heritage (276) and Columbine (248).

Fort Collins finished ninth with 153 points and Fossil Ridge 11th with 145.

Poudre qualified its 200 freestyle relay team but didn’t finish high enough in the event to earn any team points.

Ruthven, a sophomore at Fossil Ridge, finished third in the 100 butterfly (49.40) and tied for seventh in the 50 freestyle (21.34). Fossil Ridge junior Owen Watkins finished fifth in the 100 butterfly (49.75) and sixth in the 200 freestyle (1:41.07).

The SaberCats also had two top-10 finishes in relays, placing fifth in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 200 medley.

Rocky’s Lofstrom finished fourth in the 100 freestyle (45.91) and seventh in the 100 breaststroke (57.93). The Lobos’ Jake Rowe was fourth in the 50 freestyle (20.96), and Jake Suchowski ninth in the 11-meter diving competition (435.40 points)

The Lobos also had a pair of top-10 relay finishes, placing fourth in the 200 freestyle and sixth in the 200 medley.

Fort Collins also scored in relay races, finishing ninth in the 200 freestyle and 10th in the 400 freestyle. And Lambkins coach Kirk Witulski was honored at the end of the meet as the state’s boys swimming coach of the year.

Even though there were no state titles, there was something for each of the city’s schools to celebrate.

Most important, the swimmers said, was the opportunity to have a state meet this year after missing the entire 2020 season.

“It was nice to get to swim at state, even though it’s my last state meet,” Lofstrom said. “It’s a weird feeling, but it’s also an honor and accomplishment.

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