Liberty's Joshua Lenzmeier pulls away for 5A state swim title

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THORNTON • Neither idle time nor Elijah Warren of Regis Jesuit would deny Liberty's Joshua Lenzmeier his first state championship.

The Lancers senior, who will compete next fall for Alabama, had Friday night and all day Saturday to ponder the 100-yard breaststroke final, the second-to-last event at the 5A state boys' swimming championships at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.

The lone area state champion entered the race as the second seed after Warren edged him during Friday's preliminaries. 

But Warren had three earlier races on Saturday while Lenzmeier sat, listened to music and mentally readied himself. It paid off with an automatic high school All-American time and school record of 55.66 seconds.

Lenzmeier was still soaking in the moment after stepping off the medal stand.

"It's a very humbling experience," he said. "I am grateful for all the support of my family and my boys over there cheering me on. My coach did an amazing job coaching the team and helping me get to this point."

Lenzmeier pulled away after the initial 50 yards and kept Warren, who was swimming in the next lane, at bay.

"I knew I had to push as hard as I could at the end," he said. "I knew he had a strong second half but I had the extra motivation."

Lewis-Palmer led the area's 5A teams in the points standings thanks to a strong performance in diving. Senior Noah Bettner placed third followed by juniors Aric Althouse (fifth) and Jack Nagle (seventh).

That showing and eighth-place finishes for the 200 and 400 freestyle relays propelled the Rangers into eighth place in the team standings with 119.5 points. Fossil Ridge won the team title with 358 points.

Bettner was pleased with his performance, especially with a well-executed final dive that had the crowd cheering.

"I think I did as well as I could hope for," Bettner said before noting the superb performance of Octavio Lucero of Bear Creek, who repeated as state champion. "I'm very happy with how I performed."

Another who was thrilled by a strong finish was Althouse, who climbed from eighth to fifth over the final three dives.

That consistency was a bit of redemption for the junior, who struggled with nerves last season and did not make it out of the state preliminaries.

"It's amazing," Althouse said, showing off his fifth-place medal. "I have to thank my teammates for pushing and supporting me all year."

Palmer's Charles Sturgeon was the only area individual to make two championship finals. The Terrors senior placed eighth in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 breaststroke in his final high school meet before entering the George Washington swim program.

Lewis-Palmer piled up important points in the consolation finals behind a 12th-place finish for the 200 medley relay team and two 14ths for junior Nick Orie in the 50 and 100 freestyles, respectively. Senior Nathaniel Sawer placed 10th in the 100 backstroke.

The lone Fountain-Fort Carson finalist, senior Brenan Bloyd, led the area's 100 freestylers with an 11th-place finish.