Nothing signifies the arrival of summer in Cortez quite like the splash of swimmers competing in the Cortez Leopard Sharks Invitational. Taking place June 7-9 at the Cortez Municipal Pool, the Invitational hosted 170 swimmers representing swim clubs from Colorado and New Mexico. The Invitational included several standout performances by local swimmers and many community-building activities that provided participants with memories that will last a lifetime.
Leopard Sharks perform well
Showing off the same swimming prowess as their aquatic mascot, several local swimmers representing the Cortez Leopard Sharks swim club turned in outstanding performances. Especially impressive was the performance of 10-year-old Trenton Bagge, who won eight individual events over the course of the three days. Bagge was victorious in the 100-and 200-meter individual medley, the 50- and 100-meter backstroke, the 50-meter breaststroke, and the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle.
"Trenton has done a great job of working hard in practice," said Leopard Sharks head coach Kevin Ketterer. "He is very coachable, comes to practice with a great attitude, and he is enjoying great results."
Also putting together an excellent meet for the Leopard Sharks was 10-year-old Elizabeth McAlpin. McAlpin turned in the best times for her age group in the 50-meter backstroke, 100-meter backstroke and 100-meter freestyle.
"Elizabeth came to the meet very prepared and cut time in nearly every event she swam this weekend," said Leopard Sharks assistant coach Gayle Earley. "I'm so proud of her."
Other Leopard Sharks swimmers who scored victories included Ellen McAlpin in the 25-meter butterfly, 100-meter individual medley and 25-meter breaststroke; David Crumpacker in the 25-meter butterfly and 25-yard backstroke; Samantha Bagge in the 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter freestyle and 400-meter freestyle; Sonny Boren in the 400-meter freestyle; Jayden Thomason in the 50-meter freestyle; and Ryan Cutrone in the 50-meter freestyle.
Overall, Ketterer was impressed with his team's overall performance over the weekend.
"It's still early in the season, but we are looking very strong," Ketterer said. "I'm looking forward to a great season, and I'm excited to see this team develop and improve."
FCAT-Towaoc swimmers impressive
Working hard to keep up with the competition, numerous swimmers representing the FCAT-Towaoc swim club swam well.
Sisters Casey Duran and Bailey Duran were especially impressive with each recording victories in the 400-meter individual medley and 200-meter breaststroke.
Also victorious for the FCAT-Towaoc team was Bryce Baumgarten in the 100-meter individual medley; Maeselle La Paz in the 1500-meter freestyle; and Mikey Mills in the 100-meter butterfly.
For FCAT-Towaoc swimmers Bailey Duran, Casey Duran, Victoria Duran, Jasmyn Brendle and Tifiny Mills, the Invitational provided an opportunity to see countless hours of hard work pay off. All five swimmers had been training five days a week since February.
"It feels really good to see all the work pay off," Casey Duran said. "I was especially proud of my performance in the 400-meter individual medley. I got first place in my age group and I'm really happy about that."
Less experienced swimmers gain valuable experience
For many swimmers, the Cortez Leopard Sharks invitational provided an opportunity to experience the thrill of competition for the first time. By the end of the weekend, Ketterer was very impressed by the performances of many of his younger swimmers.
"It takes a lot of courage for a young swimmer to hop up on those blocks and swim their heart out," Ketterer said.
One less-experienced swimmer who especially impressed Ketterer was 11-year-old Jenna Barner. Swimming in her first meet, Barner competed in a variety of events, including the 100-meter individual medley.
"She was a nervous wreck, but she swam with a ton of heart," Ketterer said.
"She was awesome," Earley added.
Also impressive in her first meet was Carmen Van Romburgh.
"She comes to practice with a huge smile on her face every day. She tries everything that I throw at her. She's a great teammate and I thought that she did an outstanding job," Ketterer said.
Along with offering competitors the chance to show off their swimming skills, the Cortez Leopard Sharks Invitational provided swimmers with the opportunity to spend time together outside the pool.
After the conclusion of competition on Friday, June 7, a large group of swimmers representing multiple teams attended the Ute Mountain Rodeo. On Saturday, meet participants carried their team banners in the Ute Mountain Roundup parade and then joined together for a potluck in the Cortez city park.
"This event brings camaraderie to the entire community because there are so many people who contribute to make this happen," said the president of the Cortez Leopard Sharks' board, Dianna Bagge. "All the hotels and restaurants in town benefit from this event."
"The meet also showcases all the wonderful things that Cortez has to offer," Bagge added. "Once people come here for the first time, they often come back to visit again."