Photo by John Leyba, Mullen Sports Photographer

The 2018-19 girls swimming and diving team at Hutchison Fieldhouse.


Pep rally salutes winter champions!

Photos by John Leyba, Mullen Sports Photographer

Mullen held a pep rally Friday to salute its winter state champions. Below are shots involving the girls swim team that was fourth in Class 4A and had winners in the 50-yard freestyle and 200 free relay, and students who backed them.


Mustangs go fourth …

S. Zinis, Chahbandour, Sowitch and Clode pace high-end

finish at 4A state meet as Mullen also wins 2 events

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

THORNTON – When athletes claim in the aftermath of an event that they left it all out on the field, on the court, or, in this case, in the pool, they seem to be satisfied.

It happened on Friday evening, when Mullen capped its performance in the Class 4A Girls Swimming and Diving Championships at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center. The Mustangs gave maximum effort, scored points in the 10 of the events and finished fourth in the team chase against a good field.

They were sixth a year ago and rode an inner core of eight swimmers who were as versatile and productive as they were resilient.

“A lot of our kids swam four races (in Friday’s preliminaries) and four today,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said. “I’m excited and very happy. They did great and all of the hard work paid off.”

The Mustangs provided balance, although Sofia Zinis arguably collected the most and led the way. Of note, the senior won the 50-yard freestyle in 23.90 seconds in becoming the Mustangs’ first swim event winner since Caroline Shea won the 200 free in 2008. (Mullen’s Katie Russ won diving in 2015.)

“It was super fun,” Zinis said.

In particular, she said, after the Mustangs finished second in the opening event, the fun really started. Zinis handled the anchor leg as she followed Micalea Clode, Claire Chahbandour and Lindsey Sowitch in Mullen’s runner-up showing in 200 medley relay. They recorded 1:46.48 to Rampart’s 1:42.49. And it took a state record for the Rams to do it, eclipsing the 1:42.86 they turned in a year ago.

“We just started so well,” Zinis said.

And it lasted until the end of the meet. The Mustangs’ depth helped pile up some points.

In ending another drought, S. Zinis, Gabrielle Zinis, Chahbandour and Sowitch also teamed to win the 200 free relay in 1:37.41, narrowly missing All-American consideration. It was the Mustangs’ first relay victory at state since 2007.

S. Zinis added a third in the 100 free (52.71) and G. Zinis was 17th (55.93). Chahbandour was sixth in the 50 free (24.49) and fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.18). Sowitch, a sophomore, was sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:10.04) and ninth in the 100 butterfly (59.02).

Clode added a ninth in the 100 backstoke (59.88). Anarose Schwamm was 12th in the 100 breast (1:09.94).

Senior Julianna Zinis added seventh (426.20 points) in diving and even though Mullen capped its effort with an 18th in the 400 free relay (Taylor Nielson, Clode, Scwamm and G. Zinis) in 3:53.96, their scoring was enough for 258 points. The Mustangs were behind Rampart (366), which defended its team title, Niwot (303.50) and Cheyenne Mountain (299). Silver Creek was fifth (226).

“Almost beating Cheyenne Mountain,” Stone said, “was great. (The Indians) are good.”

Chahbandour said “We’re definitely thrilled. It’s a big step up from last year, it really is. We had some great races. Rampart’s good and nobody touches Rampart. (The Rams) are so fast. We are so satisfied. I love high-school swimming so much more than club swimming. It’s so much better.”

It was Mullen’s 15th top-10 finish. They won state team titles from 1996-98, in 2001 and from 2003-05.

The Mustangs’ quality was enough to overcome their lack of quantity, Sowitch said.

“It’s very cool, she said. “Coming in we were definitely really pumped today. I didn’t think we’d do as well as we did, which made it exciting.

“We were definitely the team with the leats amount of people, so to get fourth is huge.”


Mustangs in 8 finals spots after 4A prelims

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

THORNTON -- They undoubtedly wanted more, but Mullen’s Mustangs put themselves into position on Thursday to score in Friday’s finals of the Class 4A girls swimming and diving championships.

How many points they can put up and what the higher-end teams can generate remains to be seen, but the Mustangs will be represented in eight of the finals races at the Veteran memorial Aquatics Center.

Topped by performances in key relays, the 200-yard free relay team of Gabrielle Zinis, Claire Chahbandour, Lindsey Sowitch and Sofia  Zinis finished first in 1 minute, 38.67 seconds.

The 200 medley relay team of Micaela Clode, Chahbandour, Sowitch and S. Zinis grabbed second in 1:47.61.

Individually, S. Zinis was third in the 50 free (23.90) and G.Zinis was 12th.

Chahbandour was fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.32) and Anarose Schwamm 13th in 1:09.75.

S. Zinis was sixth in the 100 free (53.62) and Clode eighth in the 100 back (59.37).

Sowitch was fourth in the 200 individual medley (2:08.91) and eighth in the 100 butterfly (58.71).

Julianna Zinis was 13th in diving (294.65 points) and the 400 free relay group of Taylor Nielson, Clode, Schwamm and G. Zinis 17th, or an alternate, at 3:53.91.

Friday’s finals will be at 4:30 p.m.

A year ago, the Mustangs were sixth in the team chase.


15 Mustangs set for 4A state meet

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Following Saturday’s Centennial League Championships, head coach Susan Stone said she didn’t bother to view the results until she reached home.

And was she ever surprised about her Mullen Mustangs ... they finished fifth in the eight-team group that contains a lot of the heavyweights in Class 5A.

Sixth a year ago, Stone said “oh, I was extremely pleased. I never expected us to (also) beat Smoky Hill. I was shocked.”

It’s the current way for the Mustangs, who continue to make strides and are preparing for the 4A Colorado Championships to be held Thursday-Friday at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton.

Mullen will have 15 entrants: Elise Bialecki, Claire Chahbandour, Micaela Clode, Emma Linn, Riley McCamley, Taylor Nielson, Gabby Reuth, Kate Rowland, Rachel Rowland, Anarose Schwamm, Lindsey Sowitch, Kendall West, Gabrielle Zinis, Julianna Zinis and Sofia Zinis.

J. Zinis, K. Rowland, Reuth, McCamley, Bialecki and West are the divers. The others will swim with eight of them ranked in the top 20, giving them a chance to win or place. S. Zinis, Chahbandour, Sowitch and Clode are Mullen’s best bets.

The Mustangs won’t have as much depth as a few other contenders, notably Rampart and Silver Creek, but a high-end finish, particularly within the top five, is a viable goal, Stone said.

“It would be good,” Stone said. Overall, she added, this season “is more than I ever expected, especially when considering five years ago we had only 13 swimmers (on the roster) and one state qualifier for one race.”

Preliminaries will be Thursday (diving at 10 a.m.) and finals on Friday, both starting times at 4:30 p.m.


Sowitch, Clode pace 5th at Centennial

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

CENTENNIAL – Improvement continued on Saturday for Mullen girls swimming and diving.

At the Centennial League Championships held at Arapahoe, the Mustangs finished fifth, a jump of a spot from a year ago. And keep in mind the Mustangs were the only Class 4A team against seven others in 5A.

Plus, a few outstanding individual and relay efforts were highlights heading into this week’s 4A state meet,

Tops was Lindsey Sowitch, who won the 200-yard individual medley. The sophomore cruised to a time of 2 minutes, 9.96 seconds.

“Coming in, I was a little nervous,” Sowitch said. In lanes next to her were club teammates Madison Saldanha (Cherry Creek) and Miri Griffin (Arapahoe), she said, “so I kind of knew their strategy.”

But she said she was right around her best time “and I’m surprised, more happy than anything.”

She edged Saldanha by .17.

Sowitch also joined with Gabrielle Zinis, Claire Chahbandour and Sofia Zinis to take third in the 200 freestyle relay, 1:39.62, and was fifth in the 100 butterfly, 59.96..

At state, Sowitch said she will be in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly individually, and join teammates in relays.

Micaela Clode also shone in the water. She teamed with Chahbandour, Sowitch and S. Zinis to grab second in the opening race of the finals, the 200 medley relay. They finished in 1:47.64. Clode added a second in the 100 backstroke, 100.07.

In addition, Clode, Taylor Nielson, G. Zinis and Anarose Schwamm were fifth in the 400 free relay, 3:53.87.

Chahbandour, too, added a couple of thirds, in the 100 freestyle, 54.74, and the 100 breaststroke, 1:06.07.

S. Zinis was second in the 500 free, 24.85, and Juliana Zinis was fourth in diving with 447.30 points.

Clode said the team was excited about its chances in this week’s finale.

“Oh, yeah, we think we’ll able to do well in 4A,” she said. “I don’t know if we can win it with some of those teams having bigger (rosters), but we definitely can win a lot of the individual races.”

At the Centennial, perennial power Cherry Creek won with 987 points to the host Warriors’ 851. Grandview was third with 664.5 and Cherokee Trail fifth (559). Mullen had 501.

The 4A state meet will be Thursday-Friday at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton and the Mustangs have 15 qualifiers.


                                                                                                                                      Photo by John Leyba, Mullen Sports Photographer

Lindsey Sowitch and the Mullen Mustangs are set for postseason swimming and diving over the enxt two weekends.

Playing pool: Postseason is here for ‘Stangs

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

It’s here for Mullen girls swimmers and divers. The postseason will take place over the next couple of weekends with the two most-important meets,and they appear set.

“We’re ready,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said. “We’re swimming and diving our best.”

First, the Mustangs will be at Arapahoe this weekend for the Centennial League ‘A’ Championships. Preliminaries will begin on Friday and the finals will be on Saturday at 3 p.m. With the meet involving Class 5A regular powers and challengers such as Cherry Creek, the host Warriors and Smoky Hill, as well as the larger rosters of Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest and Grandview, Mullen will find itself in a numbers-and-depth game as it has during regular-season league meets.

“They all have more swimmers,” Stone said.

However, staying sharp for the ensuing weekend is the main goal as the Mustangs will be participating in the 4A Colorado meet that will be Feb. 7-8 at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton.

Fifteen of 45 Mustangs have qualified for the state meet -- Elise  Bialecki, Claire Chahbandour, Micaela Clode, Emma Linn, Riley McCamley, Taylor Nielson, Gabby Reuth, Kate Rowland, Rachel Rowland, Anarose Schwamm, Lindsey Sowitch, Kendall West, Gabrielle Zinis, Julianna Zinis and Sofia Zinis.

“Everybody is doing what we expected,” Stone said, adding that additional diving qualifiers will give the Mustangs six in the event.

A year ago, Mullen moved from 20th to sixth at the state meet. And it was ranked as high as third this season.

A finish within the top five in a couple of weekends would be their best in 14 seasons.

“I’m very pleased where we’re at and we’re excited about going to state,” Stone said.


Sowitch, Mustangs complete duals

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

CENTENNIAL -- In completing their dual meets for the season, Mullen lost to host Arapahoe 202-100 on Thursday in the Centennial League.

The Class 4A Mustangs couldn’t match the depth of always good 5A Warriors, but their quality was relevant again.

Lindsey Sowitch had a big meet, teaming with Micaela Clode, Claire Chahbandour, and Sofia Zinis to win the 200-yard medley relay in 1:54.62. Sowitch also won the 200 freestyle in 2:01.68 and the 100 butterfly, 1:02.02. And Clode finished first in the 100 backstroke, 1:05.01.

Others of note included S. Zinis finishing second in the 200 individual medley, 2:26.23, and Gabrielle Zinis fourth, 2:29.53.

Julianna Zinis was third in diving, 259 points, and Chahbandour fourth in the 100 butterfly, 1:05.90.

G. Zinis, Sowitch, Chahbandour and S. Zinis won the 200 free relay, 1:44.78.

And Taylor Nielsen, Anarose Schwamm, Rachel Rowland and G. Zinis were fourth in the 400 free relay, 4:11.82.

The league’s B championships will be Saturday, Jan. 26, at Smoky Hill in Aurora and the A league will be Feb. 1-2 at Arapahoe.

The 4A state championship will be Feb. 8-9 at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.


Mustangs grab 5th at Smoky Invite

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sport Information Specialist

AURORA -- With another strong showing, Mullen girls swimmers and divers placed fifth in the Smoky Hill Invitational oin Saturday.

The Mustangs registered 281 points behind winner Heritage (496.5), Chatfeld (424), Legend (332) and the host Buffaloes (327).

Individually, Sofia Zinis finished third in the 50-yard freestyle (24.89 seconds). Julianna Zinis grabbed second in diving (417.70 points) and Kate Rowland was sixth (372.25). Claire Chahbandour was fourth in the 100 free (55.89) and Sofia Zinis sixth (56.70). Chahbandour added a third in the 100 breast (1:08.62) and Annarose Schwamm ninth (1:11.13). And Micaela Clode was eighth in the 100 back (1:1:02.00).  

In relays, the Mustangs’ Clode, Chahbandour, Lindsey Sowitch and Sofia Zinis were third in the 200 medley (1:50.92).  Gabrielle Zinis, Chahbandour, Sowitch and Sofia Zinis were third in the 200 free relay (1:40.66). And in the finale, the 400 free relay, Taylor Nielsen, Schwamm, Clode and Gabrielle Zinis were seventh (3:54.45).

The Mustangs will resume meet action on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Arapahoe, 5 p.m., in the Centennial League.


'Stangs, super soph slick at coaches meet

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

It worked out both team-wise and individually for Mullen in the past weekend’s Rex Abelein Memorial Coaches invitational at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton.

The Mustangs finished 13th overall and second among Class 4A teams, and sophomore Claire Chahbandour led a lot of it.

“It went great,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said.

Mullen totaled 114 points. A usual, 5A heavyweights such as Fairview (468), Cherry Creek (364.5) and Arapahoe (219.5) took the top three places, but the only 4A team ahead of the Mustangs was Rampart (192), which ended sixth.

Individually, Chahbandour twice broke a school record in the 100-yard breaststroke, getting clocked in 1 minute, 6.55 seconds in the final to finish ninth.

And while Mullen didn’t take first in any event, its developing depth carried the team with the promise of more.

Its 200 medley relay team, (Micaela Clode, Chahbandour, Lindsey Sowitch, Sofia Zinis) finished eighth, 1:50.99. In the 200 individual medley, Sowitch was seventh, 2:09.70. S. Zinis was ninth in the 50 free, 24.47, and Chahbandour added a 20th, 25.57. And the 200 free relay team (Gabrielle Zinis, Chahbandour, Sowitch, S. Zinis) was sixth, 1:39.74.

Stone, encouraged by what she is seeing, already is excited about end-of-season opportunities. The  Mustangs will have one more meet before the holiday break, Thursday at Eaglecrest in Centennial, senior night, before a lighter schedule into February.

“I’m excited,” Stone said. “We have a long ways to go, but, boy, it’s so good.”


Mustangs show well in dual loss at Buffs

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Ordinarily, Mullen girls swimming and diving would have trouble matching the depth of Smoky Hill, one of the state’s largest schools and a program that has been among Class 5A’s elite.

But the 4A Mustangs nearly did just that on Thursday, falling 108-76 to the host Buffaloes in Aurora in a Centennial League dual meet.

As it was, the Mustangs showed very well, winning multiple events and providing depth in others.

Their 200-yard medley relay group of Micaela Clode, Claire Chahbandour, Lindsey Sowitch and Sofia Zinis finished first in 1 minute, 51.96 seconds. Mullen also had groups finished third and fifth.

Other firsts: Rachel Rowland, diving, 196.25 points; Chahbandour, 100 free, 56.47; Chahbandour, Sowitch, Gabrielle Zinis and S. Zinis, 200 free relay, 1:43.96; and Sowitch, 100 backstroke, 1:02.85.

Additional placings of note: G. Zinis was second in the 200 individual medley; Clode and Sarah Vasten were second and third, respectively, in the 50 freestyle; and a second and third in the 400 free relay, topped by the four of G. Zinis, Chahbandour, Taylor Nielsen and S. Zinis.

Mullen next will compete in Saturday’s Coaches Invitational at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Complex in Thornton.


‘Stangs riding the rapids in quick start

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

In the early going of the 2018-19 season, Mullen girls are beginning to rule some of the pool.

“Oh, yeah,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said. “We’re doing great and are right where I think we should be.”

Having finished in sixth place the past season at the Class 4A state meet, the Mustangs have carried their emerging prowess over to their first three meets.

On Tuesday, they easily won a tri-meet at Hinkley in Aurora, totaling 148 points to the Thunderbirds’ 88 and Overland’s 33. In all, the Mustangs won 20 of the 24 combined varsity and junior-varsity races.

In order, Mullen grabbed firsts in: the 200-yard medley relay (Micaela Clode, Anarose Schwamm, Rachel Rowland, Taylor Nielsen), 2 minutes, 1.78 seconds; 50 freestyle (Clode), 27.83; 100 butterfly (Rachel Rowland), 1:08.73; 100 free (Nielsen), 1:01.52; 500 free (Claire Chahbandour), 5:55.75; 200 free relay (Gabrielle Zinis, Sowitch, Chahbandour, Sofia Zinis), 1:49.83; 100 backstroke (Rachel Rowland), 1:09.99; 100 breaststroke (Schwamm), 1:17.52; and 400 free relay (Gabrielle Zinis, Sowitch, Nielson, Sofia Zinis), 4:11.16.

Stone said the Mustangs brought no divers, who instead chose to practice. And in the two varsity events the Mustangs didn’t win, freshman Mia Mowers was second in the 200 free (2:33.02) and senior Emma Linn runner-up in the 200 IM (2:49.78).

Earlier, the Mustangs grabbed second place in Cherry Creek’s unique Interstate 8, which is designed to have a limited field of one entry per event. Cherry Creek (104) won and was followed closely by Mullen (93) and Rock Canyon (92). Mullen was the only 4A team in the field.

The Mustangs’ Clode, Schwamm, Sowitch and Sofia Zinis won the 200 medley relay in 1:55.42. Gabrielle Zinis was fourth in both the 50 (26:07) and 100 freestyles (57.35). Juliana Zinis (245.50 points) won diving. Sofia Zinis was second in the 100 butterfly (1:04.47).  Sowitch was runner-up in the 500 free (5:27.71). G. Zinis, Sowitch, Nielsen and S. Zinis won the 200 free relay (1:44.31). Clode was second in the 100 back (1:03.95) and Schwamm second in the 100 breaststroke (1:15.19).

And in the season-opening dual meet, Mullen went down handily to the Bruins, who have the state’s largest enrollment that creates tremendous depth, but still managed to spark a series of state qualifiers and the promise for more.

“It’s a group effort,” Stone said. “We have a lot of school spirit and the girls are all having fun and enjoying each other. They’re having fun and it makes them swim better.”

Mullen will resume its schedule on Thursday, Dec. 6, at Cherokee Trail in Aurora, 5 p.m.



Mustangs figure to be in the 4A swim of things

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen Sports Information Specialist

(Note: Third in a series of previews for the 2018-19 winter season.)

Mullen figures to be in the swim of things and diving, too, for the 2018-19 season.

The Mustangs return a host of Class 4A state qualifiers from the past season, when they made the jump to a sixth-place finish at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton. They had been 20th in 2016-17.

Now in her fifth season heading the Mustangs, coach Susan Stone has been able to increase participation as well as results, and the latter could take the more-important jump this season.

If nothing else, movement within the classifications should help.

“Possibly,” Stone replied when asked if Mullen could move up the 4A team ladder, “because Valor (Christian) and Heritage have both moved to 5A and both of them beat us last season.”

In addition, a Mullen team that was younger the past season returns more experienced and stronger, as well as with a few additions. The Mustangs also should have a more-comprehensive roster.

“I think my girls are pretty spread out and we have state swimmers in every event,” the coach said.

All told, the Mustangs, who don’t have a pool at school and will once again work out at nearby Athmar Recreation Center, figure to have 50 swimmers and 15 divers. Five seasons ago, Mullen’s roster contained a grand total of 13 competitors.

“We’re going to be stronger than in the past because all of the new swimmers are good swimmers and we won’t have a lot of beginners this time,” Stone said. “We’re a more-advanced team than we’ve been in the past.”

The Zinis girls, Gabrielle, Julianna and Sofia; the Rowlands, Kate and Rachel; Anarose Schwamm; Taylor Nielsen; Lindsey Sowitch; Claire Chahbandour; and Emma Linn are at the front of a team that has potential to challenge in 4A and will have opportunity to be primed through a dual-meet schedule in the 5A-based Centennial League and its heavyweights.

In fact, Mullen will open its season on Thursday, Nov. 29, against perennial power Cherry Creek in a dual meet at 5 p.m. in Greenwood Village.

“I’m not sure if we can win any (of the league meets against the higher end),” Stone said, “because they’re just too deep in state swimmers, but it’s good competition for us to see.”

Mullen will get another early gauge of where it stands on Dec. 15, in the annual Colorado Coaches meet.

The regular season will run through Feb. 2. This season, 4A will be paired with 5A for the state meet – 4A was with 3A in 2017-18 – and again compete at the VMAC.

Shannon Stone chooses Orange Coast College

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Saturday was a big day in the Stone house.

Mullen’s girls swimming and diving team, coached by Susan Stone, tied for sixth place at the Class 4A championships at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton. The Mustangs, who improved their previous state place by 14 spots, also set four school records.

And Stone’s daughter, Shannon, decided on a college. The younger Stone has decided to attend Orange Coast College in Costa mesa, Calif., to play sand and court volleyball.

“It’s great,” Susan Stone said. “It’s her dream and what she wanted, what she was holding out for.”

The younger Stone, who was ill over the weekend, visited 13 schools, according to her mother, and turned down multiple offers, including from Southern Connecticut State and Chadron State. She was adamant about being able to play inside and outside.

Now that she has gotten a start, her mother said, the plan is to compete at her junior college, then work toward a place at a four-year university.

Shannon Stone remains undecided on a major.

Girls manage 6th at 4A swim and dive championships

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

THORNTON – Treading water? No, Mullen girls swimming and diving is making a splash.

On Saturday at Colorado’s Class 4A championships, the Mustangs tied for sixth place as a team, fueled by several improved individual efforts at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center.

Mustangs head coach Susan Stone, who has been working to turn around a program that not that long ago suffered from poor participation as well as minimal state qualification, was thrilled.

“It’s huge,” Stone said. “Yes, very, very big. We finished 20th last year, so very much so.”

Stone said both she and Mustangs participants were first excited about an influx of strong freshmen to start the season, then were buoyed even more by a solid showing at the Smoky Hill Invitational in Aurora that continued to get them noticed.

A season that produced four school records, two that were set more than two decades ago, was capped with crisp performances, notably by a couple of relays. The 200-yard medley relay team of Micaela Clode, Claire Chahbandour, Lindsey Sowitch and Sofia Zinis finished second in 1 minute, 48.35 seconds. And the 200 free relay group of Chahbandour, Sowitch, Gabrielle Zinis and Sofia Zinis managed fifth in 1:38.48.

Individually, the Mustangs loaded up in the 50 free – Sofia Zinis was third, 24.03 seconds; Chahbandour was seventh, 24.26; and Gabrielle Zinis 13th, 25.02.

Chahbandour’s big day continued in the 100 breaststroke, where she was eighth in 1:06.48. Julianna Zinis also managed an eighth, scoring 410.15 points in diving.

Sowitch added two other scoring performances – she was 14th in the 100 butterfly, 1:01.03, and 15th in the 200 IM, 2:12.78.

Mullen didn’t have qualifiers in three of the 12 events, Stone said, and she’ll need to better strategize as the team grows.

Of the four school records, Sofia Zinis broke her mark in the 50 free; the 200 free relay team surpassed the mark it set earlier in the season; the medley relay team superseded the Mustangs’ 1997 high point; and Chahbandour eclipsed the 100 breaststroke record from 1996.

Mullen didn’t qualify in three of the 12 events and Stone said she’ll need some more bodies and will “have to strategize better.” The Mustangs will lose 13 seniors, but only one who qualified for state, Stone said, “so if we could get two more freshman who could qualify” they could contend.

As it was, Rampart finished first with a score of 251. Runner-up Cheyenne Mountain had 223. Heritage (194) and Niwot (138) were also ahead of Mullen (132), which tied with Loveland and Highlands Ranch. The rest: Silver Creek 131.5, Evergreen 126, Fort Collins 107, Windsor 91.5, Air Academy 75, George Washington 72, Greeley West 57, Thompson Valley 49, Pueblo South 39, Liberty 36, Pine Creek 36, Coronado 24, Ponderosa 18, Denver South 14, Littleton 10, Standley Lake 7, Grand Junction 6, Pueblo West 5, Wheat Ridge 2, Golden 2, Fruita Monument 2, Mesa Ridge 1.

Said Stone: “We’ve very happy.”

There’s Hope after a tragic loss

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

At 15 years old, Hope Konizeski grew up. She had to … no choice was involved and it wasn’t anything she asked for or could imagine in the darkest depths of her mind.

But in August 2015, it happened. She lost her mom, Doreen, a 51-year-old wife, mother to four children and beaming beacon of the Konizeski family, to initial brain problems, then a very rare form of dementia and the inability to communicate up until she stopped breathing.

Then a sophomore at Mullen, Konizeski was decimated. And when exactly is a teenager prepared for her mother’s passing?  “She died in a hospice and it wasn’t a violent death,” she said in trying to look for anything positive. “I felt like I handled it pretty well. I knew in advance it was happening. It took a while to prepare and it’s still tricky, but it was good to be with her those last months. I wouldn’t change any of that.”

Now a senior who recently completed her final season of swimming for the Mustangs heading into Friday and Saturday’s Colorado championships at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton, Konizeski recalled it being “kind of rough coming back to school those first couple of weeks. It was an adjustment. Things didn’t seem normal anymore.”

Doreen Konizeski began a trying stretch back in 2012, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, “and up until that point,” Hope said, “she was very healthy, a supermom … she was incredible.”

It’s basically how Mullen swimming and diving team members describe the way Konizeski handled herself during the worst time of her life.

“She never, ever thinks of herself,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said. “She’s just so special, just works so hard. She doesn’t have the greatest life, but you’d never know it.”  Konizeski is done with swimming. She didn’t qualify for the state championships, but those who know her realize it was not the point for a special young lady  “She’s just a good kid who tries her best at everything,” Stone added.

Mustangs teammates and peers noticed.

“I definitely think it was very tough to go through that, especially at such a young age,” senior Marguerite Whiteside said. “Even seeing her growth from then until now is actually unbelievable.”  Plus, Whiteside said, “all of the stuff you learn from your mom … I just can’t imagine that, losing her. She has done so well.”

Konizeski certainly appreciates everything thrown her way, particularly from the swim team, participating in a group in which she had little chance of advancing to the postseason. This was about more than swimming at state.

“Was it worth it to stay on the team? One hundred percent, yes,” she said. “I love the girls on the team and I’ve always enjoyed swimming. It’s a great team. And I love coach Stone.”

However, she remembers the weeks and months afterward. The questions, some that linger today, began, a mix from those who knew her and others who encountered her.

“Oh, you don’t have both parents?” “What happened?” ”Divorced?” “Your mom died?” “What happened?” “Are you OK?” “What are you doing now?  Said Konizeski: “It has been an adjustment, kind of a gradual, on-going process. It still comes up. These questions will follow me for the rest of my life.”

However, she insists her father, Tom, older sisters Monica and Emma, and her younger brother, Edward, are doing the best they can. Edward will be a freshman at Mullen next school year, which will make the Konizeski kids four-for-four in terms of attending Mullen.

“Everyone was great about it,” Konizeski said, “and (coach Stone) was very understanding and always asking me if I was OK or needed anything. The Mullen community has been great and always helpful.”

Konizeski, who swam the breaststroke and freestyle distances, said she’ll be pulling for her Mustangs teammates while also balancing her attempts to get into college. She recently just got back from Kansas, where she was bidding for a scholarship to Benedictine. She said none of the in-state colleges interest her and she has always been a fan of travel.

Losing her mother only enhanced her independence.  “I have to be more responsible for myself, no one else can be responsible for me,” she said. “I have my dad and he has four kids he has to support, so all of the attention can’t be on me.”

And she hasn’t forgotten about any attention and compassion toward her mom. Konizeski knows that type of kindness will always be with her mom’s spirit.

“We were really close,” Konizeski said. “Sometimes I miss her more than other times, like on holidays, Mother’s Day or when people talk about their parents … it’s not like it hasn’t been a fair amount of time, so it’s not a daily kind of thing always thinking about her. It has become more livable, but I will always miss her.”



Girls take 6th place at Centennial, including with oddity

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Adding state-qualification in a couple of events, Mullen finished sixth on Saturday at the Centennial League A championships for girls swimming and diving held at Arapahoe.

Micaela Clode made the state mark set for the 50-yard freestyle and Rachel Rowland did likewise in the 100 butterfly. Both had qualified in multiple events earlier in the season.

Teamwise, Mullen (415.5 points) finished behind Cherry Creek (985.5), Arapahoe (879.5), Grandview (637.5), Cherokee Trail (511) and Smoky Hill (507). Eaglecrest had 230.5 and Overland 54.5.

“Overall, we swam very well,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said. “And, yeah, they’re all (Class) 5A teams with Creek and Smoky Hill and Arapahoe … they’re all so tough and that’s what’s good for us.”

The Mustangs will be in the 4A portion of the Colorado championships this weekend.

In the league events, Mullen was disqualified in a couple of them, but, as Stone said, “better here than at state.”

As for Mustangs highlights: Freshman Claire Chahbandour took seventh in the 200 individual medley (2 minutes, 19.10 seconds); junior Sofia Zinis was fourth in the 50 free (25.29); sophomore Julianna Zinis was 10th in diving (391.70 points); freshman Lindsey Sowitch was fourth in the 100 butterfly (1:01.74); the Mustangs’ 200 free relay team was second (1:40.21); Clode was sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:01.43); Chahbandour was fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.03); and the 400 free relay managed fifth (1:53.93).

Even longtime Arapahoe coach Mike Richmond remarked that the Mustangs, who had just one state qualifier a few seasons ago, are greatly improved, particularly in a deep and talented league.

“I think they’re all taking notice,” Stone said. “Can we win some events at state? I don’t know … but we’re hoping we place in the finals in some events. Going into state we should score and place. Finishing in the top 10 would be huge for us, it would be major, major, major …”

In addition, Mullen was part of a rarity in the 100 backstroke. Meagan Compton and Alexandra Deorio tied in prelims for 23rd place. Only one of them could advance. So the two went to what amounted to a swim-off. However, again, they tied.  

“The whole place was silent,” Stone said. “No one could believe it.”

And it got better.

Said Stone: “Those girls (Compton, a sophomore, and Deorio, a junior) finished with their best times of the season … and ended up flipping a coin to see who would swim that race. The official came up and Alexandra won the coin flip. I had never seen anything like it. Everybody there said they had never seen anything like that happen. It’s probably the one thing everybody will remember from the meet.”

Mullen has 12 state qualifiers – 10 swimmers, Clode, Rachel Rowland, Anarose Schwamm, Sofia Zinis, Gabrielle Zinis, Emma Linn, Lindsay Sowitch, Chahbandour, Taylor Nielsen and Grace Hicks, the team’s lone senior and only qualifier three years ago, plus two divers Julianna Zinis and Kate Rowland.

The 4A state meet will be Friday and Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton.

Mustangs impressive in pool, take 5th at Smoky Hill meet

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Mullen finished fifth on Saturday at the 27th Smoky Hill Girls Swimming and Diving Meet in Aurora, a large improvement from past seasons.

Heritage won with 438 points. Next were Smoky Hill (410), Douglas County Co-Op (299), Cherokee Trail (288) and Mullen (286).

“Oh, my gosh, we did great!” a pleased Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said. “I probably had the smallest team there, just eight kids. It’s the quality. Coaches were complimenting me and saying it was unbelievable. ‘You did that with eight girls?’”

Mullen took just one first place, but was able to score through a series of placings to challenge.

The Mustangs’ 200-yard freestyle relay team of Gabrielle Zinis, Lindsey Sowitch, Claire Chahbandour, Sofia Zinis won in 1 minute, 40.64 seconds.

Sowitch, a freshman, also finished second in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 free in addition to helping the 200 medley relay team take fourth.

“She swam with fierceness and determination and wanted to win,” Stone said.

In addition, she said, “at the end of the meet, we don’t usually swim the last relay and I leave as soon as possible because we were always last or second-to-last in the team standings. But I stayed to the end and probably 30 minutes after the event because I was so excited about it. It was great.”

All told, the Mustangs have qualified 11 competitors for the state meet.

This week, they will have two dual meets, on Tuesday at Grandview, 5 p.m., and Thursday at Cherry Creek, 5 p.m.



Team scores: 1. Heritage 438 points; 2. Smoky Hill 410; 3. Douglas County Co-op 299; 4. Cherokee Trail 288;  5. Mullen 286; 6. Chatfield 274; 7. George Washington 268; 8. Legend 249; 9. Liberty 231; 10. Eaglecrest 99; 11. Chaparral 87; 12 Smoky Hill Red; 13. Ponderosa 46; 14. Denver South 38; 15. Smoky Hill Green 34.

200-yard medley relay: A Final — 1. Heritage, 1 minute, 47.81 seconds (meet record, previous 1:48.04 set by Heritage in 2017); 2. Douglas County, 1:49.72; 3. Smoky Hill; 4. Mullen (Micaela Clode, Claire Chahbandour, Lindsey Sowitch, Sofia Zinis), 1:53.17; 5. Cherokee Trail, 1:53.42; 6. Legend, 1:53.54.

200 freestyle: A Final — 1. Natalie Rotondo, Smoky Hill, 1:56.24; 2. M. Kroening (Douglas Co.), 1:56.64; Maddie Wilson (Cherokee Trail), 2:00.94; 4. CJ Mitchell (Heritage), 2:03.84; 5. T. Serocki (Heritage), 2:04.96; Blyhte Iverson (Smoky Hill), 2:05.05.

200 individual medley: A Final — 1. M. Robben (Smoky Hill), 2:10.33; 2. Lindsey Sowitch (Mullen), 2:11.96; 3. K. Shanley (Chatfield), 2:15.82; 4. E. Shumate (Douglas Co.), 2:15.84; 5. M. Mitchell (Heritage), 2:16.43; 6. S. Moden (Legend), 2:20.80.

50 freestyle: A Final — 1. A. Shaw (Heritage), 24.44; 2. C. Linton (Legend), 24.71; 3. E. Kahn (Geo. Wash.), 25.18; 4. M. Mulvihill (Chatfield), 25.29; 5. Sofia Zinis (Mullen), 25.37; 6. C. Neid (Geo. Wash.), 24.54.

1-meter diving: A Final — 1. L. Hammar (Denver South), 458.05 points; 2. Jaclyn Santiago (Smoky Hill), 437.20; 3. Christie Yee (Cherokee Trail), 386.80; 4. S. Brown (Ponderosa), 386.35; 5. Juliana Zinis (Mullen), 386.00; 6. N.  Quirk (Liberty), 374.55.

100 butterfly: A Final — 1. K. Andrews (Heritage), 56.60; 2. E. Litteken (Douglas Co.), 56.81; N. Rotondo (Smoky Hill), 59.28; 4. M. Kroening (Douglas Co.), 59.33; C. Agee-Keys (Cherokee Trail), 1:00.27; 6. P. Feeder (Legend), 1:01.96.

100 freestyle: A Final — 1. A. Shaw (Heritage), 52.81; 2. C. Linton (Legend), 55.19; 3. E. Kahn (Geo. Wash.), 55.25; 4. Lindsey Sowitch (Mullen), 55.55; 5. G. Roehr (Liberty), 56.22; 6. K. Power (Smoky Hill), 56.48.

500 freestyle: A Final — K. Shanley (Chatfield), 5:03.53 (meet record, previous 5:04.44 set by Shanley in prelims); 2. B. Iverson (Smoky Hill), 5:29.55; 3. B. Miller (Liberty), 5:36.68; 4. K. Graham (Geo. Wash.), 5:38.08; 5. V. Liu (Smoky Hill), 5:44.32; 6. M. Smith (Geo. Wash.), 5:48.24.

200 freestyle relay: A Final — 1. Mullen, 1:40.64 (Gabrielle Zinis, Lindsey Sowitch, Claire Chahbandour, Sofia Zinis), 2. Douglas Co., 1:40.80; 3. Chatfield, 1:42.70; 4. Heritage, 1:42.76; 5. George Washington, 1:43.39; 6. Smoky Hill, 1:44.48.

100 backstroke: A Final — 1. E. Litteken (Douglas Co.), 56.05 seconds; 2. K. Andrews (Heritage), 56.27; 3. L. Hunt (Heritage), 58.82; 4. Micaela Clode (Mullen), 1:01.96; 5. M. Mai (Cherokee Trail), 1:04.18; 6. K. Domashevich (Smoky Hill), 1”05.43.

100 breaststroke: A Final — 1. M. Robben (Smoky Hill), 1:06.91; 2. B. Walton (Smoky Hill), 1:08.08; 3. C. Chahbandour (Mullen), 1:08.83; 4. E. Shumate (Douglas Co.), 1:09.60; 5. M. Mitchell (Heritage), 1:09.98; 6. M. Deevy (Heritage), 1:10.83.

400 yard freestyle relay: A Final — 1. Heritage, 3:37.11 (meet record - previous 3:38.53 set by Heritage in 2017) (pool record - previous best Cherry Cerek 3:37.48 in 2011); 2. Chatfield, 3:42.35; 3. Smoky Hill, 3:44.11;  4. Legend, 3:45.48; 5. George Washington, 3:48.00; 6. Cherokee Trail, 3:49.24.

Swim and dive gaining lengths in the pool

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Having come a long way in four seasons, Mullen girls swimmers and divers took another step forward on Thursday.

On senior night held at Smoky Hill in Aurora – it’s how it is when the team doesn’t have its own pool – the Mustangs went down to the Buffaloes 108-74 in a dual meet as they continue to inch within some of the regular Class 5A powers.

“That’s really good for us,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said. “I mean, we’re getting closer to these good teams, 108-74, that’s really good and we’re getting closer to the best.”

Four years ago, Mullen had 13 competitors on the team. This season, Stone had to make cuts. With a roster full of underclassmen, Mullen has qualified 11 entrants for next month’s 4A state meet. It may be the Mustangs’ maximum number, Stone said, but their work continues.

On Thursday, Mullen had firsts in two relays and freshman Lindsay Sowitch won the 100-yard butterfly. She was clocked in 1 minute, 1.76 seconds. Behind Micaela Clode, Claire Chahbandour, Sowitch and Sofia Zinis, the Mustangs were first in the 200 medley relay (1:54.00). Chahbandour, Sowitch, Gabrielle Zinis and Sofia Zinia finished first in the 200 freestyle relay (1:44.46).

“They’re doing great,” Stone said.

Prior to the holiday break, she added, they provided a reasonable performance against Cherokee Trail. And they will be at the same pool on Saturday for the Smoky Hill Invitational, a 13-tschool outlay that also will include Chaparral, Chatfield, Cherokee Trail, Denver South, Douglas County, Eaglecrest, Heritage, Legend, Liberty, Ponderosa and George Washington.


Mullen shows well at Coaches Invitational swim

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

There were multiple state-qualifying efforts and an 11-year-old school record that fell against most of the best that Colorado has to offer.

So, yes, Mullen girls swimmers and divers enjoyed a big Saturday at the Colorado Coaches Invitational at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton both individually and as a team.

“They did great,” head coach Susan Stone said.

The Mustangs finished fifth in the Class 4A team portion. Rampart (194) led all 4A competitors. Valor Christian (174), Heritage (166.50) and Niwot (99) also were ahead of the Mustangs (83) in the mid-range.

Individually and in relays, the Mustangs had a lot to share. Gabriella Zinis, Grace Hicks, Taylor Nielson, Rachel Rowland, Anarose Schwamm and Emma Linn added to the Mustangs’ growing list of qualifiers for February’s state championships.

And the clear highlight was the Mustangs’ 200-yard freestyle relay team of Gabriella Zinis, Lindsay Sowitch, Claire Chahbandour and Sofa Zinis, who finished fourth, the highest spot for a 4A team. Better yet, they were clocked in 1 minute, 40.29 seconds to eclipse the 2006 mark of 1:40.35.

But there was more. Sofia Zinis turned in a 24.72 effort in the 50 free. Sowitch was 14th in the 200 individual medley in 2:13.26. And Chahbandour was 15th in the 100 breast, 1:09.71.

In the 5A team chase, it was again about the regular powers. At the top, Fairview (381) got past Fort Collins’ Fossil Ridge (303) as well as Centennial League foes Cherry Creek (218) and Arapahoe (212).

The Mustangs’ effort came a few days after they handled Eaglecrest 117-69 in a dual meet. Including junior varsity, Mullen won 19-of-24 races and took first in diving.

Next up is a dual meet on Thursday at Cherokee Trail in Aurora, 5 p.m. It will be Mullen’s final competition before heading into the holiday break.

Mustangs swim past Overland in dual meet

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Mullen girls swimmers and divers recently cruised past Overland in a dual meet for girls swimming and diving.

The Mustangs won 109-52 and won 11 of the 12 races.

In relays, the Mustangs’ Micalea Clode, Claire Chahbandour, Lindsay Sowitch and Sofia Zinis  were tops in the 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute, 59.49 seconds. Gabriella Zinis, Sowitch, Chahbandour and Sofia Zinis won the 200 free in 1:47.08. Those four also won the 400 free relay in 3:57.86.

Individually, Taylor Nielson won the 200 freestyle, 2:12.75; Gabriela Zinis, 50 free, 27.62; Juliana Zinis, diving, 204.65 points; Taylor Nielsen, 100 free, 1:00.83; ; Chahbandour, 100 breast, 1:12.92; Sofi Zinis, 100 back, 1:05.40; Rachel Rowland, 500 free, 5:50.25; and Sowitch, 100 fly, 1:03.70.

Anarose Schwamm was second in the 200 individual medley, 2:30.71.

It’s early, but Mustangs doing swimmingly well

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Girls swimmers and divers are emerging for Mullen at the outset of the winter season.

A couple of days after showing well in a loss in a dual meet at Arapahoe by qualifying nine competitors for the state meet, the Mustangs turned in another strong effort in a multi-team gathering.

At the Intra State 8 meet at Cherry Creek in Greenwood Village on Saturday, the Mustangs finished fifth of eight teams, compiling 58 points. Cherokee Trail was tops with 97. Next were: Rock Canyon 87.5, Highlands Ranch (76) and Cherry Creek (75). Legend (48) and Heritage (43.5) were behind the Mustangs.

“I’m happy with that, very happy with that,” Mustangs head coach Susan Stone said. “We even had a girl (turn) sick and we had to scratch two events, so we only swam in 10 of the 12 events.”

However, Mullen’s biggest news surrounds individuals. With Micaela Clode, Claire Chahbandour, Sofia Zinis and Gabriella Zinis, the Mustangs opened the meet by taking second in the 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute, 57.19 seconds, and the four also finished third in the 200 freestyle relay (1:48.47). Both were state-qualifying efforts.

Gabriella Zinis was third in the 50 freestyle (26.75) and second in the 100 free (57.67), and Julianna Zinis fourth in diving (183.10 points).

Sofia Zinis was fourth in the 100 butterfly (1:04.65). Lindsay Sowitch managed third in the 500 free (5:34.19).

All told, Mullen had nine state-qualifying performances in the Thursday meet against Arapahoe and added a couple more on Saturday.

To date and by doing it in multiple events, Hicks, Gabriella Zinis, Chahbandour, Sowitch, Anarose Schwamm and Juliana Zinis have earned extra swimming and diving for February.

“The kids are doing great,” Stone said.

The Mustangs resume their meet schedule on Thursday, when they will take on Overland at Cherokee Trail.


Everyone’s in the pool: swim numbers up for Mustangs

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Into her third year heading Mullen girls swimming and diving, Susan Stone began as an assistant coach during the 2013-14 season.

And it was quite different.

Pickings were slim. According to Stone, the Mustangs had all of 13 girls on the team and advanced only one to the state meet 

However, times change and so did the fortunes of the Mustangs. Last season, Stone said she had 56 girls on the team and eight qualified for state.

Better yet, there were 70 hopefuls cleared to try out for 2017-18, so many that she said she had to make cuts.

As a result, Stone called her team’s outlook “very good.”

In fact, Stone said, “we have four freshmen who are, hopefully, all-state swimmers and that’s very exciting.”

The Mustangs’ top returnee is Sofia Zinis, a junior who surpassed the school mark of 24.76 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle last year by being clocked in 24.59.

Others to watch include: Rachel Rowland, a sophomore; Anarose Schwamm, another sophomore; junior Emma Linn; junior Micaela Clode; and senior Grace Hicks. Plus, there’s diver Julianna Zinis, a returning state qualifier.

As usual, Mullen will go up against a Class 5A schedule that includes some of the best in Colorado, notably perennial power Cherry Creek and Arapahoe, a regular challenger, in the always demanding Centennial League.

Of note, the Mustangs will open their season on Nov. 30 at Arapahoe, an away meet. It will be a common theme. Their home pool is the nearby Athmar Recreation Center on West Mexico Avenue and part of the reason Stone had to make cuts. Handling the new volume is key and all Mullen meets will continue to be on the road.

A meet with Cherry Creek will be on Dec. 2. The Coaches Invitational will be at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton on Dec. 16. The Smoky Hill Invitational will be Jan. 13 and the A League meet in early February.

Mullen will be in the 4A state meet from Feb. 9-10 at the VMAC and will double up the first day with the second day of the 3A meet.



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