Swim & dive grabs 3rd, sets 2 school marks

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

AIR FORCE -- “It was incredible,” coach Susan Stone said. “Absolutely incredible.”

The Mullen boys swimming and diving coach has a point. On Saturday at the fabled Air Force Academy Natatorium – with probably the greatest swimming sign in the state that reads: “Where The Air is Rare, 7,257 feet” -- her Mustangs rose up and grabbed third place at the Colorado Class 4A meet. And they did it with only seven competitors and just one senior, yet won the final relay race of the day in style, put out a couple of school records and probably turned a few heads with their lower numbers.

“Oh, oh, 100 percent,” senior Blayze Jessen said of his team’s performance. “We’re so thrilled. We were 16th last year and to move up 13 spots in a year, that’s huge. We were probably one of the smallest teams here.”

Said sophomore William Chavez: “We didn’t see it coming … I didn’t see it coming … I thought maybe top five, that would be cool.”

But the Mustangs, who at one point dropped out of the top 10 in team standings, rallied late.

Capped by winning the 400-yard freestyle relay, Mullen ended with 187 points. It put the Mustangs behind only champion Windsor (202) and Discovery Canyon. Their time of 3 minutes, 10.64 seconds won by more nearly 3 seconds and established one of the school marks. In order, Chavez, Cameron Smooke, Ben Freeman and Jessen blew away the field.

“Oh, yeah, couldn’t have gone out in a better way,” said Jessen, who will swim next school year at the University of Denver.

Jessen and Chavez were at the front of Mullen’s parade.

Jessen took second in the 200 individual medley in 1:51.72 for Colorado All-America consideration and the first Mullen record of the day, and was third in the 100 breaststroke (58.45). Chavez had fifths in both the 50 free (21.65) and 100 free (47.57), his best overall time and top high-school time, respectively.

And in relays, Chavez, Noah Maestas, Freeman and Jessen were runners-up in the 200 free relay in 1:27.74, and Baker, Maestas, Smooke and Freeman were ninth in the 200 medley relay (41.90).

Smooke also took seventh in the 500 free ({4:58.38). The Mustangs loaded up here as Baker was 12th (5:01.50) and Freeman 14th (5:02.20).

Maestas added an 11th (1:01.40 in the 100 breast (1:01.40) and Baker was 16th in the 100 back (57.69).

Smooke, one of three competitors from nearby Colorado Academy, said “it was fun. It was hard. I’m really tired and I’m kind of happy it’s over, but we had a good year and we won the (400 free) relay.

“Yeah, it was cool (competing in a co-op). It was nice to be able to swim with different people not necessarily correlated with CA and see what other sports are like outside of CA.”

Stone said her lower levels are good, Jessen was the team’s only senior at state and the program is on the upswing.

In addition, she led Mullen’s girls in the winter season to a tie for sixth place and said she’s excited about where the program is heading. Saturday’s finish for boys was the Mustangs’ best since 2012.

“Both are special,” Stone replied when asked to compare her program’s seasons in the 2017-18 school year. “This one was huge because it is like winning for us. I worked hard. The kids worked hard. It was great!”

Swim & dive readying to make a move at 4A meet

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

It’s a fact that there is strength in numbers, but Mullen boys swimmers and divers hope to modify that a bit on Friday and Saturday, when they head south to the Air Force Academy for the Class 4A championships.

All of seven Mustangs will be on hand, although when considering the quality-vs.-quantity thing, they’re bringing a confidence with them.

“I feel great about it,” head coach Susan Stone said. “We’re ranked No. 4 … I’m still not sure where we can finish, but anything in the top 10 would be fantastic.”

Mullen competitors would like more.

“The top five,” sophomore William Chavez said. “I’m hoping for top-5 as a team and top-5 or better in the events.”

Said Mustangs senior Blayze Jessen: “Yeah, for sure, I think it’s really exciting being my senior year and fourth round at state … I think our quality over quantity just makes us different and, honestly, puts us up there with some teams looking down on us, but I think we will surprise some teams.”

Jessen, the Mustangs’ only senior this weekend, is coming off a crack performance at the Centennial League meet. In the 100-yard breaststroke, he set a meet record of 58.25 seconds.

He’s expected to be Mullen’s leader again. The 18-year-old who has signed to swim next school year at the University of Denver will compete in the 100 breast and 200 individual medley as well as the 200 and 400 free relay teams.

In previous state meets, he has registered second and fourth places, but said “I’m hoping to do better. I’d like to leave a mark.”

Chavez, a sophomore who missed the past season because of a torn rotator cuff -- “I was doing 10 and 11 practices a week,” he said of over-working himself – admitted that he “feels cheated” concerning last season and is intent on doing something about it.

He’ll be a state competitor in the 50 and 100 frees, and join Jessen in the 200 and 400 free relays.

According to Stone, Jessen is seeded first in the 200 IM and second in the 100 breaststroke. For Chavez, he’s third in the 50 free. Concerning relays, Mullen is No. 1 in the 400 free relay, 12th in the medley relay and third in the 200 free relay.

“We’re going to win at least one of the relays,” Chavez said.

Freshman Noah Maestas, sophomores Charlie Baker and Cameron Smoke, and juniors Ben Freeman and Will Olivieri round out Mullen’s state team.

Swimming preliminaries will be on Friday, 4 p.m. On Saturday, diving preliminaries will be at 9:30 a.m. All finals will be at 3 p.m.

Said Stone: “We’re excited.”

Chavez, Jessen pace Mustangs at Smoky Invite

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

AURORA -- The top-heavy quality of Mullen’s boys swimming and diving team floated near the surface of Smoky Hill’s pool on Saturday.

With 253 points, the Mustangs placed sixth at the Buffaloes annual invitational. Ponderosa co-op was first with 522. Next were: Highlands Ranch, 435; Smoky Hill 416; Cherokee Trial 268; and Chatfield 261. There were 14 teams.

“We did fantastic,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone stated.

William Chavez and Blayze Jessen were both double winners. Chavez swept the sprints, winning the 50-yard freestyle in 21.96 seconds and the 100 in 48.02. Jessen won the 200 individual medley in 1:53.14, and 100 breaststroke, 58.47.

In addition, Chavez and Jessen teamed with Noah Maestas and Charlie Baker to place second in the 200 free relay, 1:30.90. Chavez, Jessen and Maestas also teamed with Cameron Smooke for another team second, second in the 400 free relay, 3:13.32.

Mullen’s next competition will be a dual meet on Thursday, April 15, at Thomas Jefferson, 4:15 p.m.

Below are Mustangs results in the Smoky Hill meet:

 

200-yard freestyle: 8. Cameron Smooke, 1:49.15; 14. Charlie Baker, 1:52.88.

200 individual medley: 1. Blayze Jessen, 1:53.14.

50 freestyle: 1. William Chavez, 21.96.

100 butterfly: 8. Noah Maestas, 56.07.

100 freestyle: 1. William Chavez, 48.02.

500 freestyle: 9. Charlie Baker, 5:10.10.

200 freestyle relay: 2. Mullen (William Chavez, Noah Maestas, Charlie Baker, Blayze Jessen), 1:30.90.

100 backstroke: 7. Cameron Smooke, 56.61.

100 breaststroke: 1. Blayze Jessen, 58.47; 7. Noah Maetas, 1:05.31.

400 freestyle relay: 2. Mullen (William Chavez, Noah Maestas, Cameron Smooke, Blayze Jessen), 3:13.32.

 

Jessen, Maestas and Chavez top Mullen pool efforts

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

The final score of the meet was Arapahoe 125, Mullen 59, but the Mustangs know their lower participation numbers in Class 5A swimming-and-diving duals will be a problem.

No, what they want is to keep improving and post more qualifying times for the 4A state meet.

Senior and top swimmer Blayze Jessen did just that on Thursday at the Warriors pool, finishing first in the 100-yard backstroke (56.03 seconds) and 100 butterfly (53.98). “I felt good about it,”Jessen said on Friday.

Also for Mullen, William Chavez won both the 200 free (1:49.88) and 50 free (22.99); Noah Maestas was first in the 200 individual medley (2:06.99) and 500 free (5:24.65);  Chavez, Maestas, Charlie Baker and Jessen won the 200 free relay (1:33.06); and Chavez, Maestas, Will Olivieri and Jessen took the 400 free relay (3:30.09).

They will be at Saturday’s Smoky Hill Invitational in Aurora.

Mullen adds a fab 4 to a 4th signing day

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

The fab fourth of signing days for Mullen occurred on Wednesday, with, fittingly, four Mustangs off to a popular local stop, as well as California, Illinois and Oregon, covering the sports of swimming, cross country and track and field, and volleyball.

Blayze Jessen, Shannon Stone, Kendall Malone and Bryce Medaris each made it official – college academics and sports await them.

Concerning the local, Blayze Jessen will swim at the University of Denver, where it’s close to his house, where his club team competes and where he wanted to be for the next few years.

“It feels like home,” Jessen said during a ceremony at Hutchison Fieldhouse.

He is working on completing work for his fourth letter as a Mustangs swimmer. A regular Centennial League winner, Jessen, over the past two seasons, also was second in the 200-yard individual medley, added a third in the event and was fourth in the 100 breaststroke at Colorado’s Class 4A meet. A year ago, he was a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American.

A student with a 3.5 grade-point average who plans to major in business, Jessen said he’s relieved about finally signing.

“It’s not as stressful and I don’t have to keep proving myself,” he said. “Now, I can just work on myself.”

For Stone, she’s busy and nearing her 10th letter for the Mustangs, and currently competes at No. 3 singles tennis. This was after swimming and volleyball, the latter her true love. In fact, her deal with Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif., is to play indoor volleyball in the fall and outdoor, on the sand, in the spring.

The outdoor game also was, she said, “a deal-breaker.” Stone was adamant about getting to play in the sand. “More touches,” she said.

As for the 10-letter thing, she termed it “super cool and that was my goal after freshman year.”

In tennis, she was a three-time state qualifier and two-time regional champion. In volleyball, twice she was captain of the Mustangs, and was a second-team choice in the Centennial League.

Also an honorable-mention Academic all-stater, she has a 3.3 GPA and remains undecided on a major.

Malone, headed to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., actually earned a windfall of sorts.

“I can’t wait to get up there,” she said. “I reached out to them academically and it was where I really wanted to go. I just fell in love with it.”

Getting to play on the volleyball team, she said, “was just a bonus … it was where I wanted to go to school, even if I didn’t play. But this makes it even better.”

She was first team all-Centennial in the fall as well as 4A honorable-mention all-state. Malone also was selected by the Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports All-State Team. A Mullen Torch Award winner with a 4.2 GPA, Malone is in the National Honor Society and National Social Studies Honors Society. It will be computer science and physics as main studies for her at Lewis and Clark.

It’s about distance for Medaris, as in running, and he’s doubling in cross country and track and field at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. They are the Flyers and it’s fitting for Medaris, who loves to run and recently was clocked in 6 minutes, 28 seconds in the 2k steeplechase, a national top-10 time.

“The coach showed me ropes there,” Medaris said, “and I really liked it.”

The Flyers should like him – Medaris qualified for the state meet three times; twice was named all-Centennial; he was a champion at the local Liberty Bell Invitational in cross country; and is considered a 2k steeplechase All-American.

Team captain, Academic all-state and president of the art club, Medaris carries a 3.4 GPA and plans to study criminology. He’s fascinated by ballistics.

Who knows? Will he be on one of those prime-time shows?

Boys swim and dive now at full force in the pool

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

It had been a slow start to the spring season for Mullen, a drag, if you will, for boys swimmers and divers, and pun intended.

But head coach Susan Stone and her Mustangs knew it would be, considering the facts of spring break, competitors out of state and lower participation numbers.

However, things are picking up for the Mustangs. Literally.   

“Now, it is,” Stone said. “Now, I have everybody back. I didn’t have all of them (to start the season). Now, we have a full team, it’s more fun, we’re better and we even have five divers.”

In a recent loss to Aurora’s Grandview in a Centennial League dual meet, the Mustangs upped their state-qualifiers list to a dozen.

Mullen top swimmer Blayze Jessen, headed to the University of Denver, has qualified in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke. Noah Maestas made the state grade in the 200 freestyle and 100 breast. Williams Chavez will advance in the 100 free and 100 backstroke. Colorado Academy co-op members for Mullen, Cameron Smooke (200 free and 100 back), Ben Freeman (200 free) and Charlie Baker (200 IM), have added to postseason possibilities. Plus, Mullen’s 200 and 400 free relay teams (Maestas, Baker, Jessen and Chavez), will enjoy extra swimming.

Jessen also set a pool record at Grandvew, 1 minute, 55.76 seconds, in the 200 IM.

“And these guys are enough to score (at state),” Stone said, adding that the team’s goal is to get within the top 10 of Class 4A next month at the championships.

The Mustangs now stand fifth among 4A teams, Stone said, and a big finish isn’t out of the question.

Plus, Stone said, additional team members James Duginski, Jeffrey Wang, Will Olivieri, Nathan Deitrick, Jacob Robbins, Herman Perez, Dominic Scelza, Jacob Farrell and Kenny Sun are working hard to increase the competition and perhaps squeeze a few more state-qualifying efforts before the postseason arrives.

As for this week, Stone said “we’re heading into the big part of our season.” The Mustangs will be at Smoky Hill in Aurora on Saturday for the Buffaloes’ all-day invitational, historically a significant gathering of pool talent.

“We’re doing well,” Stone said.

 

Spring preview: Mustangs boys getting into the swim

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

The rise in participation numbers for Mullen boys swimming and diving may not seem dramatic, but team aspirations certainly are.

A year ago, the Mustangs had only 13 participants and finished 16th in the Class 4A state meet in a 25-team field.

In 2018, Mullen will have at least 19 competitors and head coach Susan Stone foresees opportunity tor a much-higher placing.

“We’re actually hoping for top 10 at state,” she said. “I have five state swimmers who should all qualify in two races and we should qualify all three relays and place.”

The top returnee is senior Blayze Jessen, who finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke at state a year ago and third in the 200 individual medley. He has signed with the University of Denver. William Chavez is another returning state qualifier. The Mustangs also figure to get a boost from three Colorado Academy swimmers who will join the Mustangs in a co-op and the team’s top diver is Nick Locasio.

Stone is overseeing a resurgence on the girls’ side and craves one for boys.

“We should be OK,” she said.

Mullen’s first meet is Thursday, March 8, at Smoky Hill in Aurora, 5 p.m.

 

Jessen highlights Mullen at 4A state swim meet

 

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Blayze Jessen snagged two high placings on Saturday to top Mullen’s efforts at the Class 4A boys swimming and diving meet held at the Air Force Academy.

The junior earned a second place and a third place.  Jessen finished runner-up in the 100-yard breaststroke in 59.64 seconds. Greeley Central’s Drake Manuello won the event in 57.42. And Jessen took third in the 200 IM, getting clocked in 1:53.87. Wheat Ridge’s Ryan Peterson was the winner in 1:53.01.

Elsewhere, the Mustangs’ Stephen Wickwire finished 16th in the 50 freestyle, getting timed in 23.12.  Mullen also had two relay teams score. The 200 freestyle team of William Chavez, senior Joseph Schwamm, Wickwire and Jessen finished ninth, first in consolations, in 1:31.77. The same four were 12th in the 200 medley, fourth in consolations, in 1:44.27. Teamwise, Mullen ended with 60 points for 16th place of 25 teams.  The start of the afternoon meet was delayed for a lengthy bit due to problems with the scoreboard.

CLASS 4A

BOYS SWIMMING AND DIVING STATE MEET

At the Air Force Academy

Final team scores -- Cheyenne Mountain 337, Valor Christian 239, Thompson Valley 219, Golden 177, Windsor 141, Coronado 107, George Washington 106, Discovery Canyon 105, Pine Creek 101, Montrose 101, Silver Creek 87, Pueblo County 72, Estes Park 70, Air Academy 63, Loveland 61, Mullen 60, Evergreen 43, D’Evelyn 36, Wheat Ridge 34, Glenwood Springs 34, Greeley Central 32, Green Mountain 24, Mountain View 22, Thomas Jefferson 21, Longmont 11. 

 

Try Something New They Said - And Have Lots of Fun They Did!

They only wanted a few things. To try something different. Have no regrets when looking back as an adult. And fun, have lots of fun.

So when Noah Amen, Nick Locascio and Michael Phenicie decided to pass on their other sports and dive with the Mullen swimming team this spring, it was more than a whim. Along with Bobby Meagher, who swam for the Mustangs the past two seasons before opting to dive, the three were in search of a new challenge.  “Well, we typically play lacrosse and we just wanted to do a sport we had never tried before, so we decided to do diving,” Amen said. “We wanted to give it a shot. And it was fun. We really had a blast.”

Amen, Locascio and Phenicie typically ski and snowboard Keystone in the winter and were lured by employing the principles of doing flips and the like on the slopes to the diving board and the pool.  “The flips and stuff like tht were pretty transferable, but the hard part was learning the technique of how to enter the water, particularly the toes part,” Phenicie said. “You have to enter without a splash.”

Locascio, previously part of the track team, said, “Oh, yeah, we loved it, the most fun I’ve ever had. The falls are the hard part of skiing and boarding, and we were used to it. That feeling of learning something new and trying something bigger and harder ... it was fun.”

Mullen coach Susan Stone said she was delighted to have them on the team, particularly for a program that is climbing back in terms of numbers and success after a low point followed the 2011 state team championship.

Plus, her first-time divers qualified for the Centennial League ‘A’ meet.  “And they did great,” Stone said. “When they started, they didn’t know how to do anything in diving in league or that they had to do 11 dives.  “It was exciting because our team is so small. We have not had divers for two years.”

None of the three wanted to run into former classmates in the future and lament that they should have tried this sport or that sport. They wanted to actually do something about it.  Phenicie, also a scratch golfer who will attend Washington, said he “had played the same sport for, like, two or three years and I wanted to see what else was out there. We like to do different things. Growing up in Colorado is a luxury to have all of the opportunities, like biking, or hiking … it was fun.”  Headed to Montana State, where, like Phenicie, he will turn to intramurals, Amen said “we progressed a lot. We were really bad at the beginning, but we picked it up quickly.”  A junior, Locascio said he’ll be back next season for another go on the board. And he’ll look forward to it.

“It was a lot more formal than what we’ve done on the trampoline and snow,” he said. “You have to point your toes and on certain steps off the board pay very fine attention to detail. It was something new to us. It was hard to get over that learning curve. “And I had never really interacted with the swimmers. It actually was just a really fun environment with all of the team dinners and stuff like that, just a super welcoming environment.”

As the small Mullen team heads into Friday’s beginning of the Class 4A state meet at the Air Force Academy, junior Blaze Jensen is rated first in the 100-yard breaststroke and second in the 200 freestyle. A strong showing, Stone said, “would be huge for us.”  So was, she added, having additional divers who were out as much for a good time as they were for competition.  “Having them was good for team camaraderie,” Stone said. “They were a part of the whole program.”

 

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist 

It seemed like one of those things, so Shamond Hamilton said, yeah, sure …

Little did he and others know at the time that he would follow through on it. And enjoy it.

Hamilton, a three-year starter at running back for Mullen, was casually asked the past fall about joining the Mustangs boys swimming and diving team for the spring season. Keep in mind there has been little crossover historically between football and swimming in the prep ranks, the Mustangs are in the always powerful Centennial League and Hamilton had never even dreamed about swimming competitively, let alone actually jumping in the pool with the best Colorado has to offer.

But there was something between Hamilton, Susan Stone, the boys swimming coach, and her husband, Steve, who assisted with the football team.

“We had two meetings before the season started and I thought he was kidding,” Susan Stone said. “And I said to him, ‘You’re not going to swim.’ But he came to the second meeting and I said, ‘You’re serious.’ I have a soft spot for him anyways. So I asked him about his swimming.”

And she got her answer.

“They thought I was just playing at first and I went out that first day and I could barely do one lap,” Hamilton said. “I thought that this will help me stay in shape and I don’t do track, so I decided to stay on the team because it was something different and better than sitting at home and doing nothing.”

It really was that simple. A non-swimmer became a swimmer.

“So I said to him, ‘What’s your swimming ability?’ And he said, “I can swim,’” Stone said. “We got together and he swam a couple of times. He went under water like a 5-year-old, he took a couple of strokes and learned to blow bubbles.”

However, Stone added that “right away I could tell he was serious. I think he wanted to prove all the doubters wrong and be successful, maybe prove he was more than just a football player.”

Hamilton said swimming “is different than football,” but not unlike running into an All-Colorado linebacker. It was tough. “Swimming is like nothing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It works all the muscles and after practice I really just wanted to crawl out of the pool and take a nap.”

This wasn’t the case of a coach being charitable. Hamilton earned his way. And Stone saw to it, being impressed by her new competitor’s diligence. Despite being relegated to the B team, Hamilton competed in the 50-yard free style, medley relay and 200 free relay. And his most success? It came in the 100 breaststroke, where he finished second at the B league meet in 1 minute, 44 seconds. He had another goal of breaking 30 seconds in the 50 free, but had to settle for 30.24.

Not bad for a CSU-Pueblo signee who was used to gaining yards, not swimming them.

“It was great, great for the program and for those other kids to see someone like him to go out for the swim team,” Stone said. “No experience, never done it and you can see him do it and be successful.

“He was a very hard worker, very coachable, very dedicated.”

Better yet, Stone added, “none of the kids on the team are Shamond’s friends, so he earned a lot of new ones.”

Mustangs head football coach Tom Thenell said he was moved by Hamilton’s work ethic and willingness to adapt.

“It surprised us all and yet I think Shamond is in a place where he has come through our school and is not afraid to take a risk, so to speak, not afraid to maybe do some things outside of the box that were good for him,” the coach said. “I think he’s a happy kid.”

Hamilton, who said he will study athletic training and business at CSU-Pueblo, brought his senior GPA up to 3.8 and his cumulative near 3.0. He said he owes Mullen a lot in the areas of academics, athletics and character, and enjoyed himself immensely.

Plus, if he should find himself at a pool or a beach with friends, he won’t be afraid to go into the water. He knows he can now handle himself.

“And I won’t drown,” he said with a hearty laugh.

 

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