The Denver Pioneers walked out of Moby Pool Friday night with not only a dual meet victory, but with state bragging rights as well.
"DU has them, and we don't," commented head coach John Mattos in reference to the significance of the non-conference victory for the Pioneers.
The University of Denver beat the CSU swimming and diving team for the second consecutive year by a combined score of 176-105. DU had never defeated Colorado State until last season.
The Rams started off slow, losing five of the first six events of the dual meet.
As usual, senior Liz Jones proved to be the most outstanding performer for the team.
"She just demolished the field," her coach said. "That shows what she is going to be capable of doing when it counts."
Jones's fast times in freestyle sprints have proven to be a pattern of consistency all season.
She took home two more first place finishes on Friday with victories in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle events.
"For me personally, I usually don't swim very fast at this point in the season, so it's encouraging to see that I can get up and go that fast when I have to," said Jones. "Hopefully it will all come together and I'll be even better at conference."
Freshman Tara Staley joined her teammate Jones atop the leader board with a victory in the 200-freestyle, finishing with a time of 1:57.27.
Sophomore Elyse Hall's final score of 252.15 in the three-meter dive earned the team first place points as well. The diving events were held in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Academy.
Junior Brette Winegarner and freshman Lyndsay Cox continued the Rams' success in the 100- yard backstroke with second and third place finishes, respectively.
Although the Rams were at home Friday, they hardly held an advantage over their opponent. Several members of the team were still suffering from an illness they had caught last week.
Senior captain Rachelle Kula became so sick moments before the meet that her coach ordered her to take the night off and rest. Jones pointed out that although the Rams were shorthanded Friday, it is better for the team to suffer now instead of during the postseason.
Despite a third straight dual meet loss, coach Mattos and his swimmers remain very optimistic. Their sights are set on the goal defined since the first day of practice: the Mountain West Conference Championships, beginning Feb. 22 in Oklahoma City.
Coach Mattos has fully instilled that goal into each and every one of his swimmers.
"We've been doing everything right all season," said Cox. "[Coach Mattos] knows what he's doing and I have no doubt in my mind that he'll lead us to a conference championship."
The CSU swimming and diving team returns to the pool Friday to host its final conference dual meet of the season against the defending conference champion, the UNLV Rebels.
Sean Star can be reached at email@example.com