State meet gives freestyle relay team final chance
FARMER’S KORNER – With the Summit High School pool to themselves, the Tigers’ 400-yard freestyle relay team had their last chance Thursday to goof off in practice before heading down to Loveland for the state championship meet today.Marshall Snead, David Shaffer, Josh Gammel and Marc Miller make up the only part of the SHS boys team that qualified for the state meet. With kickboards flying across the pool and Shaffer flipping into it throughout practice, the relay team wasn’t showing its nerves as the 18th seed in today’s 20-team preliminary race.”Everyone messes around a lot at meets, but it’ll be different for states,” Miller promised. “The whole atmosphere of states is focus.”
Miller, Snead and Gammel joined departed Summit graduate Eric Lowe to take the 400 free relay team to the state meet last year, with Shaffer serving as an alternate. That team finished 24th out of 25 teams, and didn’t qualify for the 16-team final. Lowe was considered the star last year, but the 2005 team believes it can beat last year’s time of 3 minutes, 46.4 seconds and make it to Saturday. “Initially our goal was to beat last year’s relay team that didn’t make it to the finals,” SHS coach Mike Rathgeber said. “We just wanted to beat their time. But apparently it’s been difficult for teams to qualify for the 400 relay, so now we’re thinking, hey, let’s beat their time and come back the next day, something they didn’t do.”Until last week at the Jeffco League championship meet in Arvada, the jovial freestylers hadn’t qualified for this weekend. Rathgeber tinkered with the swim order all season, shuffling around the four swimmers in every way possible. In the Jeffco preliminaries, Snead swam the opening leg, with Shaffer, Gammel and Miller following. The sophomore Snead came in under a minute for the first time all year, at 59.1 seconds, giving the rest of the team a great chance to beat the required 3:50.8.
“When Marshall came in in 59, it gave the whole team a boost, knowing they were that much ahead,” Rathgeber said. So Rathgeber has found his order, and will stick with what worked in Arvada. He has set a goal of 3:45, and Snead hopes to swim the opening leg in 57 seconds. “I want to swim a 57, but it’s going to be hard to keep up with some of the faster guys,” Snead said. “Some of ’em will be crushing me.”Whatever happens in today’s meet, Rathgeber said this team has overachieved from top to bottom. “Given as much as we’ve accomplished with the small amount of kids we have, with no superstars, this is one of the most satisfying coaching gigs I’ve had in a long time,” Rathgeber said.
With a 2-5 record in dual meets, it doesn’t appear the Tigers have accomplished much, but most of the losses were due to low numbers, not slow swimming. In those seven meets, Summit won 55 of 84 events, making it obvious which team had the fastest swimmers.If Snead, Shaffer, Gammel and Miller can take a few seconds off their time, and make it to Saturday’s finals, Rathgeber believes the numbers problem could go away.”Success breeds numbers,” Rathgeber said. “It would just cap off a tremendously successful season.”Andy Frame can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at email@example.com.
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