CHSAA Champs Preview: Cherry Creek, Evergreen Aim to Extend Streaks; 4A Field Wide Open

2023 Colorado Girls State Championships (3A, 4A, 5A)

  • Feb. 7-Feb. 11, 2023
  • Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center
    • Thornton, Colorado
  • SCY (25 yards)
  • Schedule
  • Psych Sheets

Zara Zallen is enjoying swimming again, and that could spell trouble for the rest of Colorado’s Class 5A competitors at this week’s state championships.

The Boulder High senior recently switched club teams and decided to join her high school squad for the first time 13 years into her swimming career. Zallen wasted no time making her mark as she broke three school records and clocking the state’s top times in both the 50-yard freestyle (22.83) and 100 free (49.48) at last week’s Front Range League (FRL) championships.

“I’ve changed club teams and I’m just a lot happier,” said Zallen, who used to train with Loveland Swim Club but now swims for Foothills Swim Team. “I think that’s just been the main difference for me is just swimming happy and competing happy and just enjoying swimming again.”

“I think having that support system and swimming for an actual team, it’s definitely helped me swim faster and motivate me in different ways,” she added. “I think I’ve swam pretty well my last couple of meets. It’s faster than I usually swim mid-season, so that’s been really nice to see.”

Zallen initially committed to Utah but is now slated to swim for Missouri next year. She’s also entered as the seventh seed in the 100 breast (1:05.34) and the 11th seed in the 200 free (1:53.74). Her sister, Sloan, a sophomore, is seeded fifth in the 200 free with a 1:51.78.

The Zallen sisters would need some sizable time drops in the 200 free to catch the top-seeded duo of Mountain Range’s Marissa Inouye and Legacy senior Sabrina Rachjaibun, who tied for first place last week in a new FRL record. The two are set for another battle in the 500 free, where Inouye owns the No. 2 seed less than a second behind Rachjaibun.

Heritage senior Mary Macaulay won 4A titles in the 100 back and 100 fly last year, but defending those crowns will be tougher now that her team made the jump to 5A this year. She’s seeded 14th in the 100 back and 4th in the 100 fly, but she did earn the top seed in the 200 IM (2:02.10) by more than two seconds.

Based on the psych sheets, Cherry Creek is projected to cruise to another team title, which would mark the program’s 29th championship in 49 seasons of girls swimming. Alexis Greenhawt is the squad’s only top individual seed in the 100 fly (54.46), but Cherry Creek boasts four No. 2 seeds and top-seeded times in all three relays (200 medley, 200 free, and 400 free).

5A Team Rankings (Based on Psych Sheet Projections)

  1. Cherry Creek, 450
  2. Heritage, 282
  3. Fairview, 267
  4. Regis, 248
  5. Legacy, 232

4A Preview

The 4A field is wide open after two-time defending champion Heritage jumped up to 5A classification. The stage is set for two swimmers in particular to have huge meets.

Pine Creek sophomore Madison Mintenko holds top-seeded times by comfortable margins in the 100 free (51.06), 200 free (1:50.04), and 500 free (5:00.49). Last year as a freshman, Mintenko tallied first-place finishes in the 200 free (1:49.41) and 500 free (4:58.59).

She’s not the only 4A swimmer with top times in three individual events. Cheyenne Mountain senior Caroline Bricker comes in as the top seed in the 100 back (56.63), 100 breast (1:03.97), and 200 IM (2:00.87). The Stanford commit is seeking to cap her career with her fourth straight 200 IM title. Last year, Bricker lowered her own 4A state meet record in the 200 IM from 2:00.87 to 1:59.37.

We could get a showdown between Bricker and Mintenko in the 100 fly, where they are seeded second and third, respectively, behind Niwot senior Jamieson Legh.

4A Team Rankings (Based on Psych Sheet Projections)

  1. Pine Creek, 406
  2. Broomfield, 329
  3. Cheyenne Mountain, 294
  4. Niwot, 287
  5. Monarch, 253

3A Preview

Four-time defending state champion Evergreen has a new coach this year in Steve Schneiter, but expectations remain just as high for the Cougars.

Evergreen junior Finley Anderson, a Cal commit, will aim to defend her titles as the top seed in the 100 back (53.68) and 100 fly (55.67) while freshman Tally Riddle owns the top time in the 500 free (5:13.66) by more than four seconds. The Cougars boast a third top-seeded individual courtesy of Riley Rains, who sits atop the 100 breast rankings with a 1:05.82. However, stretching their streak to five state titles in a row will be no easy feat as St. Mary’s and Discovery Canyon figure to challenge for the 3A crown.

Last year, Julia Thomas swept the sprint freestyle events to lead Discovery Canyon to a runner-up finish, the program’s best result ever at the state meet. This year, the senior standout returns as the top seed in the 50 free (24.30) as well as the second seed in the 100 free (53.13) and 100 fly (57.24).

Discovery Canyon sophomore Madison Wagner will be looking to avoid a repeat of last year in the 200 IM, where she entered as the top seed only to finish second behind Caitlin Crysel’s new meet-record time of 2:05.34. Wagner led for the first half of the race before Crysel overtook her on the third leg.

Crysel, a junior at St. Mary’s, is the top seed in the 100 free with a 53.12, just a hundredth ahead of Thomas. Crysel is also seeded second in the 50 free (23.34) and 100 breast (1:06.92), just a tenth of a second behind Rains in the latter.

3A Team Rankings (Based on Psych Sheet Projections)

  1. Evergreen, 448
  2. St. Mary’s Academy, 329
  3. Discovery Canyon, 314
  4. Holy Family, 217
  5. Glenwood Springs, 208

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1 month ago

I swam high school in Colorado back in an era when all schools competed in one meet, irrespective of the size of the school. While it is nice to see that different divisions these days opens up more opportunities for girls and boys from the smaller schools to compete, I can’t help but think that a swimmer like Finley Anderson (55.6 fly, 53.6 back) would get a lot more out of competing against the top 5A and 4A swimmers than she will by winning the 3A back title by four seconds. I think CHSAA needs to find a way to get the top high school swimmers in the same pool together. They can always then rank them by division once… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by JVW
Reply to  JVW
1 month ago

CHSAA is on record promoting state meet participation as the primary goal in creating 3 categories. High School Activities Association does not care about quality of top competition within Colorado. That is for the club swimming scene to figure out.

1 month ago

Colorado did have a state meet in 21. You didn’t see it under the championship results on collegeswimming because it wasn’t a prelim finals meet. Top 20 swimmers during the season and conference meets in each event had a finals only swim. They cleared the entire building after each event because of Covid (may have let swimmers in consecutive events stay, can’t remember). It was a long long day for those on both the 2MR and the 4FR. And yes, Caroline won the 4A 2IM with a 2:00.78 that was the meet record at the time.

Reply to  Swimpop
1 month ago

Yep, it made for a VERY long day. Luckily our team got a hotel room close by where the girls could change suits, eat, and rest between the long breaks in events.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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