Statebound: Summit High swimmers and wrestlers look ahead to league tourneys
The back half
Before state championships in early February, the Tigers swim team and wrestling team need to weather the remaining regular-season meets and league tournaments. A look at the tail end of the season.
Jan. 28 — Gilpin County Invite, Gilpin County High School, time TBD
Feb. 1 — Home dual vs. Wheatridge, Summit High School, 6 p.m.
Feb. 10-11 — 4A Western Slope Regionals, Denver West High School, time TBD
Feb. 16-18 — 4A State Wrestling Tournament, Pepsi Center, time TBD
Girl’s swimming and diving
Jan. 28 — Demon Invite, Eagle Valley High School, 11 a.m.
Feb. 3-4 — 3A Western Slope League Championships, Colorado Mesa University, 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 9-11 — 3A Girl’s State Swim and Dive Championships, time TBD
There’s got to be something in the water at Summit High School this winter.
For the first time in head coach Jenny Wischmeyer’s tenure — 15 years this season — the girls swim team is sending a relay to the 3A state championships from Feb. 9-11. And coach isn’t sending just one relay — she’s sending three: the 200-yard freestyle, the 400 freestyle and the 200 medley. Each of those relays qualified for state while breaking school records, and in Wischmeyer’s words, she’s “over the moon.”
“I’ve never taken more than one person to state, so to take six girls in five events, it’s just so awesome,” said Wischmeyer, whose swimmers have also qualified for two individual events in their first season at the 3A level. “We still have three more opportunities to qualify, but I’m really just loving that we have all these relays.”
But wait, there’s more. Down the hallway from the swimming pool, Tigers wrestling head coach Pete Baker is busy prepping two students, one senior and one sophomore, for the 4A state tournament at Denver’s Pepsi Center from Feb. 16-18. Summit always manages to send at least one wrestler per year to the tourney, but it’s rare to send two at a time, and even more rare to send an underclassman.
“Dean (Vangsnes) and Alex (Barela) are on a tear,” Baker said after the first six meets of a 12-meet season. “I don’t want to jinx it this early, but they could place at the state meet this year. It’s been two or three years since we’ve had someone place at the state meet.”
With a few weeks remaining before both teams travel to state, superstitions are running high. Baker doesn’t want to jinx his two stars, and Wischmeyer doesn’t want to think too much about what could happen with not one, not two, but three separate relays. There’s plenty of work to be done before then, and she can’t let dozens of “what ifs?” derail her team.
But you’d better believe she and the girls are ecstatic.
“I think I was more nervous than the girls last night,” Wischmeyer said of the team’s last home meet on Jan. 24, when the medley relay qualified for state with a time of 2:05.82. “Swimming is all about work hard, work hard, work hard, and then you back off when it’s time for conference (finals). … I think they’re really psyched to see where we can go and we have so much awesome, positive energy.”
In the pool
For sophomore Abbey Lau — member of all three state-qualified relays — thinking ahead to the state championships needs to wait until after the 3A league championships from Feb. 3-4. She’s nervous for both, sure, but that’s when she swims her best.
“Honestly, I think the nerves help me,” said Lau, a competitive swimmer since 7 years old. “They give me the adrenaline I need, and I think I can keep them under control. I just hope that there won’t be too much nerves — just enough to help me go fast.”
That’s where her teammates come into play. In all three relays, Lau is joined by girls she’s swum with since elementary school: junior Katarina Lee, junior Emily Sandberg and freshman Hannah Anderson in both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays; and Lee, sophomore Logan Simson and senior captain Stephanie Schulman in the medley relay. Lau feels comfortable with them, she said, and coach agrees.
“It’s been awesome to have that,” Wischmeyer said. “We have a variety of girls who join the team — I’m open to anyone who wants to swim — but it’s been awesome to have a group of swimmers with experience to push us to the next level.”
Lau and Co. demolished their previous medley time by three seconds when they qualified on Jan. 24, and Lau is confident they can get faster and faster in the home stretch. After all, the freestyle relays made the cut at the very first meet of the season, and with just one meet remaining before leagues, they’re still improving.
“Last year we were trying really hard to make it to state, so to start the season by making it, that was just awesome,” Lau said. “It took the pressure off of us for the rest of the season. It makes it more fun and more relaxing.”
Maybe that’s the secret ingredient for this year’s team: fun. As the lone freshman heading to state, Anderson wanted to prove herself early. When she did, everything else fell into place.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove,” said Anderson, who like Lau has competed with many of her teammates for years. “There are a lot of other good swimmers on the team who could be in the spot I’m at, so I feel like I have to really stay up with everyone else to keep my spot.”
On the mat
In the wrestling room, senior Vangsnes (28-6 record) and sophomore Barela (27-5 record) — the only Tigers currently qualified for state — are doing what they do best and quietly putting in the time on the mat, day in and day out.
“It’s about keeping my fundamentals,” Vangsnes said. “That will be my strength. I need to be strong on the mat, just like I usually am, and I can’t think about things too much. I can’t let my brain get in the way of a match.”
Wrestling might be a physical sport, but both of the state-bound Tigers agree that mental stamina can be their biggest ally and fiercest foe. For the first time in their high school careers, both wrestlers are making the trip to state, where Vangsnes will compete in the 182-pound division and Barela in the 106-pound division.
“I just need to have a good mentality, tell myself I’ll do good before I even go out on the mat,” Barela said of his strategy for both state and the upcoming regionals meet from Feb. 10-11 at Denver West High School.
Earlier this season, Vangsnes lost to the No. 4-ranked wrestler in 4A and expects to face him again at the state meet. He’s convinced he can win, but only if he stays patient and protects his cardio. Those two factors beat him before and he won’t let it happen again at regionals or state.
“I’ve been looked at as a winner for the regional tournament,” Vangsnes said. “If that happens, I can do well at state. I won’t be going two and out.”
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