Talented Lewis-Palmer swimming and diving program sends four to college level

Photo - <p>Student athletes from Lewis-Palmer High School signed letters of intent Wednesday, April 12, 2017, to play college athletics. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette</p>
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Student athletes from Lewis-Palmer High School signed letters of intent Wednesday, April 12, 2017, to play college athletics. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

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Monument - Emily Munn wanted to dive. Noah Bettner found the sport after injuries in gymnastics. Julie Day followed in her siblings' swimming footsteps. And Nathaniel Sawer, well, he's been in the pool for years.

All four Lewis-Palmer seniors signed National Letters of Intent at the school on Wednesday to swim or dive at the college level next season.

It was an example of how talented the Rangers are in girls' and boys' swimming despite not having huge teams to take to the 5A state tournament.

Co-coaches Jackie Cromer and Alan Arata focus on trying to get their athletes to the next level.

"That's our goal of our program - especially if you have a desire to go swim in college - to move you in that direction," said Arata, also the diving coach. "Not only that, but to find you the right college you want to go to. I think that's the bigger picture."

In the winter, three swimmers from Palmer Ridge - which combines with Lewis-Palmer for the district swimming team - also signed NLIs.

"Alan is a good coach," said Munn, who is headed to Air Force. "He can turn people who don't know how to swim or dive into amazing athletes."

Munn was recruited by multiple schools for her field hockey skills. But when the opportunity to dive for the Falcons arose, she jumped at it.

"I have always wanted to go to the academy," said Munn, who took eighth at state in February. "But I just never saw it coming true, that dream, until I was finally there."

Bettner will join Munn; he's heading to the academy's prep school. Last season, he took fourth at state in diving.

"It's crazy because our team isn't that big," said Bettner, who did gymnastics at the Olympic Training Center before suffering injuries. "It's just good coaching, good atmosphere for competitive practice and learning and improving upon what you already have."

Day is headed to swim at Oklahoma Baptist, while Sawer, who moved to the district from Washington ahead of his junior season, is headed back to the Northwest at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

Seeing her teammates next to her at the table had Day admiring what the program has accomplished.

"It's a big thing for all of us to be going into college doing it," said Day, the fourth sibling in her family to head to college to either swim or dive.

Over the weekend, Sawer qualified for state in the 100-yard breaststroke, his worst event.

"He's the most versatile swimmer on our team," Arata said.

Lewis-Palmer's girls' team finished fifth in the state team standings in the winter. The boys' finished 11th last spring. Both were the highest finish in 5A for Pikes Peak region teams.

"It's so amazing," Munn said about signing with her teammates. "It's like, we're in this together."