By Craig Harper
For the Courier
THORNTON — Averly Hobbs’ junior season of diving for Chatfield began with her nursing a sore shoulder and ended with her having a shoulder to cry on.
Her coaches and teammates provided their share of support after a third-place finish in the 5A state meet at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center on Feb. 15 left last year’s runner-up and this year’s top returnee disappointed and unable to suppress tears.
But the person supplying the greatest comfort and consolation was sophomore McKensi Austin of Regis Jesuit, Hobbs’ club synchro diving partner and best friend is also the newest state champion. Minutes earlier, Austin had beaten Hobbs by 45.65 points.
The two shared a long, tearful embrace after Hobbs’ 11-dive total of 448.80 points placed her behind Austin (494.45) and Douglas County/Castle View’s Kaitlin Costello.
“She was really comforting,” Hobbs said. “She knew I wasn’t very happy. She made me feel better.”
“She was a bit down on herself,” Austin said. “She’s an amazing athlete and she works so hard, and sometimes for those amazing athletes, it’s just not their day.”
Trailing Austin by 20.8 points and Costello by 5.55 with three dives remaining, Hobbs had hoped to move up in the final round of 16 divers and make a big splash by debuting in competition a back 1½ with 1½ twists for her last dive.
The margins remained the same through the ninth dives, but Hobbs fell further behind in the 10th and 11th rounds. She couldn’t quite match last year’s state-meet score of 454.65 or this year’s best of 464.50, a league record set at the previous week’s Jeffco Championships.
“I feel like I dove well today, but it could have gone better,” Hobbs said. “If I would have hit some of my dives in the beginning my score would’ve been higher. It was tight between the three of us. I was diving well and they were diving well. I’m happy with the results.”
Chatfield diving coach Sean Gillespie felt Hobbs had her best meet this season until the final dive, which was added for its greater degree of difficulty.
“The last one could’ve been better; she nailed it in practice this week and warmups today. There was no wiggle room today,” Gillespie said.
“I can’t ask anything more from that young lady,” said Chatfield head coach Ron Johns. “She came a long way from her injury at the start of the year. I know she’s disappointed with her performance today. There were a lot of expectations on her from being (the top returnee from last year), and that might have been part of it. I know she’ll come back stronger from it.”
Hobbs’ 16 points for third place accounted for all of Chatfield’s scoring in the meet. No Chargers reached the final 16 in swimming events. Freshman Peyton Wayment (500-yard freestyle) and the 400 and 200 freestyle relay teams came closest, finishing 22nd, 19th and 22nd in 5 minutes, 21 seconds, 3:44.76 and 1:44.21, respectively. Senior Ana Eyssimont, who had never dived before this season, reached the semifinals and finished 19th with 260.70 points for eight dives.
“Everybody swam their best, but the meet was super fast,” Johns said. “We knew we’d have to have excellent performances and help from some others (to reach the final 16).”
The good news for Johns is all of Chatfield’s state qualifiers, with the exception of senior Hailey Gerze, who swam relays, are freshmen and sophomores. That group includes Haley Kopec (2:18.43 in the 200 individual medley, 1:11.46 in the 100 breaststroke), Sydney Mueller (55.73 in the 100 freestyle), Abby Oglesby (25.68 in the 50 freestyle) and Heather Stevens (2:03.25 in the 200 freestyle, 5:24.48 in the 500 freestyle).
Dakota Ridge was scoreless in the meet, but senior Ali Borelli came close to making the top 16 in the breaststroke (19th in 1:08.82) and 100 freestyle (26th in 55.04). Senior Kayla Munday and junior Deseray Sileo clocked 1:03.12 and 1:03.89 in the backstroke preliminaries.
The Eagles swam in all three relays with their 200 medley squad placing the highest at 25th (1:55.67).