GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. The District 51 Griffins swim team has long been a force to reckon with in Western Colorado. Over the past seven years the boys have taken six straight conference titles. This season they fell to second but still qualified 14 swimmers to the state meet.
"It was exciting for me," said senior Noah Bradshaw. "I was really happy that I could finish this year with a state qualifying time."
Along with a few individual qualifications, the young team's biggest focus will come in the relays. The 200 and 400 freestyle both have qualifying times in the top 25, while their 200 medley comes in the top 35.
"The stakes are high," said sophomore Samuel Jordan. "Everybody is going to be swimming fast. There's going to be lots of great people that are going to go to Division I schools and lots of fast kids."
So the Griffins are ready to step up to the challenge, and they know what to expect.
"We went to three meets in the Front Range this year, which is the most they've been to," said head coach Donald Ray Craft. "They've seen a lot of good things and that they can actually compete at the same level as the rest of the Front Range."
"Since we combined all four schools, it'd be nice to show them that we mean business," said Bradshaw.
Much like track and field, swimming takes the competition up a level. All the pressure falls onto one athlete's shoulders, for a set amount of time. They get on the blocks, wait for the buzzer, and dive into the moment.
"When you're in the water it's an individual sport, but for high school it's all about the team swimming," said Coach Craft.
And this weekend the District 51 Griffins will have the opportunity to prove themselves on the biggest stage.
"We will be a good force to contend with," said Jordan. "We're a small club team, but we definitely have lots of small fighters."