St. Mary's Caitlin Cairns, Manitou Springs' Sydney Dolloff-Holt lead area swimmers at 3A state

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THORNTON – Following their impressive performances at Friday night’s Class 3A state meet, St. Mary’s swimmer Caitlin Cairns and Manitou Springs’ Sydney Dolloff-Holt were met on the pool deck with hugs and plenty of celebratory whooping.

Next year’s celebration – well, that might be even better.

Cairns followed her impressive high school debut a year ago with a dazzling sophomore return that included a state title in the 50-yard freestyle at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center, while Dolloff-Holt ended her junior season with two runner-up finishes and two top-five finishes in relays.

Both came achingly close to other wins, as well - Cairns in the 100 butterfly and Dolloff-Holt in the 100 breaststroke. Pueblo County’s Amanda Blickensderfer –and perhaps just her fingernail – was the difference.

Cairns’ late push nearly caught Blickensderfer in the fly, but she finished .16 seconds back at 56.88. The Hornets junior then caught Dolloff-Holt on the final lap of the breaststroke, edging her by .27 seconds at 1:05.69.

“If anything, it’ll make me train harder for next year,” Cairns said.

An hour before the Pirates sophomore was mobbed by teammates and coaches after she out-touched a pair of Colorado Academy swimmers to win the 50 freestyle in 24.19.

The red-headed torpedo broke school records in both her individual events and helped the 400 freestyle to another St. Mary's record in 3:54.67, according to their coach.

“She’s the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet and she’s just a bulldog in the water,” Pirates coach Brigid Webb said. “In two more years – ‘Holy moly’ – she’s going to be something.”

Dolloff-Holt added to her state medal count (top-eight) with the ninth of her career, according to CHSAA results. Prior to a thriller in the breaststroke, the junior took silver in the 200 IM (2:11.59) and was part of a third-place finish in the 200 medley relay (1:53.08) and a fifth in the 200 freestyle relay (1:44.40).

“I know next year’s going to be better for her,” Manitou Springs coach Roy Chaney said. “She’s starting to hit her peak in my opinion. … Today was a breakthrough for her.”

Elsewhere, Ava Giesbrecht led Discovery Canyon with fourth-place finishes in the 200 freestyle (2:00.12) and 500 freestyle (5:15.38). The Thunder finished an area-best ninth with 125 points, while Manitou Springs was 11th, St. Mary’s 15thand Fountain Valley 23rd. Longmont won the team title.

Among the four area teams: Retta Smith took second in dive (38.70) for the Pirates; Noel Clayton was sixth in the 200 IM (2:18.55), eighth in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.68) and Rachel Alexander was fifth in dive (370.05) for the Thunder; Coco Stevens was seventh in the 50 free (25.37) for the Mustangs; and Harriet Townsend was sixth in dive (365.90) for the Danes.

State swim meets will conclude on Saturday afternoon with 5A at Edora Pool and Ice Center in Fort Collins and 4A at VMAC. Dive prelims will be held in the morning at both sites.

Cheyenne Mountain is looking to defend its title in 4A and qualified in 11 spots in the swimming events. Its biggest competition looks like Rampart, which is also in 11 spots so far. The Rams have four divers in prelims to the Indians’ one.

Individually, Cat Wright is looking for her third title in the fly and posted the top qualifying time in the 200 IM. Aleksandra Olesiak leads in the 100 breaststroke followed closely by Rampart’s Edenna Chen and Cheyenne Mountain’s Sophia Bricker. The Rams have the top times in the 200 medley and 400 free relays.