Girls state swimming preview: In final high school meet, Rilea Driscoll and Morgan Friesen hope to take Windsor Wizards to the next level; plus three things to watch
February 8, 2017
A weekend at the pool
» What: Class 3A and 4A Girls Swimming and Diving Championships
» When: 3A prelims start at 10:30 a.m. Friday; 4A prelims start at 4 p.m. Friday; Diving prelims (both classes) at 9:30 a.m. Saturday; Finals (both classes) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday
» Where: 3A is at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center, 5310 E. 136th Ave., Thornton. 4A is at the Edora Pool Ice Center, 1801 Riverside Ave., Fort Collins.
The Windsor girls swimming and diving program was already on the rise when Rilea Driscoll and Morgan Friesen first donned Wizards swim caps as freshmen. Still, the talented duo had no intention of ultimately leaving the program just like they found it.
In fact, three years later, they are on the verge of leaving the program better than they found it; perhaps significantly better.
The year before Friesen and Driscoll began high school, Windsor finished 22nd at the state championships. Their freshman year, it placed 11th. Their sophomore year, the Wizards rose to ninth. Last year, they were seventh.
Obviously, complemented by a bunch of other emerging standouts the last few years, Driscoll and Friesen have been at the heart of Windsor's rapid ascension.
“I really want to make it to the finals, and I have a really good feeling that I will. I’ve never been stronger than I am right now. I’m just really happy.
— Rilea Driscoll, Windsor swimmer
They hope to trigger another leap forward for the Wizards during the Class 4A Girls Swimming and Diving Championship on Friday and Saturday at the Edora Pool Ice Center in Fort Collins.
Friesen is in position to defend her state titles from a year ago in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
Driscoll, a key contributor to past Windsor finalist relay teams, strives to advance past prelims in an individual event for the first time at state.
Individual ambitions aside, both are quick to mention their desire to elevate the program to new heights while detailing what they hope to accomplish this weekend.
"Honestly, I think our state team this year is a lot stronger than it has ever been," said Driscoll, who will compete next school year for Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. "We have a lot of fast girls on our team this year, and we brought up two new girls (freshmen Richelle Witt and Madisen Barrieau). So, I think we can definitely do better than seventh place."
Friesen is seeded first in the 200 IM (2:07.73). She is second but an obvious favorite in her signature event, the 100 breaststroke (1:03.40).
Driscoll is 19th (2:01.95) among a talented 200 freestyle field and 23rd in the 500 freestyle (5:38.22). She needs to place 16th or higher in prelims Friday to qualify for the finals Saturday.
She's been right on the cusp of advancing to the finals all three of her previous state meets.
She was one spot shy of advancing to the finals, the first alternate, in the 200 freestyle last year and was 18th in the event and 17th in the 500 freestyle the year before.
She was 18th in the 500 freestyle as a freshman.
More confident, conditioned and skilled than ever, Driscoll's hope and optimism are also at an all-time high as she pursues a trip to the finals.
"I really want to make it to the finals, and I have a really good feeling that I will," Driscoll said. "I've never been stronger than I am right now. I'm just really happy."
On paper, Friesen has little if anything left to accomplish individually at state. She has four state championships on her resumé, seven automatic All-American times at a state meet and is the all-classification state record-holder in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.90).
But as much time and energy as she has spent on building her own portfolio the past three years, she has been just as intent on elevating Windsor's program.
While defending her individual titles on Saturday is clearly a priority, Friesen said there is one thing she still wants to do as a prep athlete before packing her bags for the University of Louisville; she wants to make sure the Wizards are in that much of a better place than they were when she and Driscoll first arrived three years ago.
"I'm just excited to see how the weekend goes and finish out the year strong with the team," Friesen said. "Most of all, I'm just excited to see what the team can do as a whole. Windsor swimming has grown so much in the last few years."
Here are three more things to watch during this weekend's state swimming championships:
1 With Morgan Friesen wrapping up her prep career, will Windsor's next star emerge?
Windsor is bringing 10 girls to state.
With this being Friesen's swan song at the high school level, this weekend could provide the perfect opportunity for the Wizards' next rising star to become the new face of the program.
Juniors Erin Eccleston and Hunter Waterman, and sophomore diver Makena Sanger, are as strong of candidates as any.
Eccleston is seeded eighth in the 100 butterfly (59.18) and 12th in the 100 backstroke (59.71). Waterman is 10th in the 50 freestyle (25.18) and 11th in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.90).
Sanger is ranked sixth (420.90) in 1-meter diving by PrepSwimCo.com.
2 Led by Josie Carpenter, can Greeley West make its presence known in 4A?
After years of battling the big dogs in 5A, Greeley West drops back down to 4A, competing at that level for the first time in nearly a decade.
The Spartans are the 19th-ranked team in 4A, and they'll be looking to leave their mark at EPIC this weekend.
In particular, sophomore Josie Carpenter could make an immediate impact at the 4A level. She's seeded third in the 500 freestyle (5:10.61) and 14th in the 200 freestyle (1:59.77).
Fellow Greeley West standout, junior Elise Johnson, is seeded 12th in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.99) and 13th in the 200 IM (2:15.76).
3 How high will Rylee Daniels rise in her third state championship?
The past couple years, Eaton junior Rylee Daniels has been a budding star at the 4A level. The only reason she isn't this year is because she's now a bona fide star in 3A, a new classification CHSAA added this season.
The 3A meet will take place at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton, and Daniels could be one of the shining stars.a
She's seeded third in the 50 freestyle (24.69) and fifth in the 100 butterfly (1:00.45).
Also for Eaton, junior Mikeldi Lewis is ranked eighth in 1-meter diving (361.95). Fellow junior Kaitlyn Maker is ninth in the 100 breaststroke (1:13.53) and 21st in the 100 butterfly (1:08.66).