The turn of the calendar yields a change in focus for the Panther and Demon girls swimming programs. With the season reaching its midpoint, both M-CHS and Durango shift their focus from early season fitness to the championship portion of the schedule.
The two teams met in the pool in a double dual meet with Montrose at the Cortez Recreation Center, with the Demons topping both the Indians and Panthers, 561-538 and 617-141, respectively. The Panthers fell to Montrose in their dual contest, 614-140.
The opening race of the meet set the table for a tightly contested affair between Durango and Montrose. In the 200-yard medley relay, the Durango team of Mira Joyner, Saylor Stottlemeyer, Mina Willemin, and Ruby Epstein posted a time of 2:07.08, narrowly edging out Montrose by half a second.
The victory set the tone for the Demons, who captured two of the three relays and had a Demon atop the podium in all but two of the individual events. Stottlemeyer accounted for two individual victories, in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke. Joyner matched the feat with individual honors in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. Joyner’s winning backstroke time of 1:06.48 moves her among the top times in 3A.
The Demons stamped their victory with a dominant 400-yard relay, with Stottlemeyer, Willemin, Joyner and Jocelyn Earl teaming up to blow away the field by 20 seconds.
Coming off the winter break, Durango head coach Tom Joyner recognizes some of the difficulties of maintaining a high level. “We know that with the holidays, we have athletes on vacation,” said Joyner, “But I’m pleased with how many athletes were in the pool during that time.”
As a result, Joyner feels good about how the 2017-18 edition of the Demons stack up. “We’re further along this year than we were last year at this point,” said Joyner. It shows in their current status with state-qualifying pursuits. The Demons boast at least one athlete with a state qualifying time in all twelve events.
The Demons’ focus now shifts to having different athletes reach the qualifying threshold. “The second half of the season is about fine-tuning,” said Joyner, “We start looking at the order of our relays and getting some athletes some rest to see if we can perform our best down the stretch.”
The top M-CHS performance of the evening came from the third place 200-yard freestyle relay team of Lyndi Belt, Scott Earley, Jewels Goad, and Nanabah Sam. The quartet touched the wall in 2:21.93.
M-CHS head coach Gayle Earley assessed her team’s progress as a battle against injuries. “We’ve really been struggling to stay healthy,” said Earley, a point emphasized by only four Panther swimmers able to compete in the duals.
Already a young squad, Earley has been pleased with the development of the Panther youth movement. “We’ve got girls who are better in several different strokes, and are improving in both endurance and confidence.”
In spite of the setbacks, she feels that the attitude of the squad remains positive, “The kids have really great spirit, and our unity with a small team has really made us into a family.”
On Saturday in Durango, the Demons won the meet against Montezuma-Cortez and Montrose, piling up 631 points. Montrose had 530 and Montezuma-Cortez finished with 109 points.
Midway through the meet, the teams stopped action to honor the nine seniors on the Durango roster.
“It’s really amazing to see all the girls support us, and turns out they actually like us – that’s always a good thing,” senior captain Mira Joyner said. “And I think it’s happy and sad to swim your last event in your home pool. I think this year is special for all of us.”
Of the 12 events held at the Fort Lewis College pool, the Demons won seven.