The right combination to unlock a state-qualifying time in the 200-yard freestyle relay eluded the Durango High School boys swim team.
That is, until Friday at the Fort Lewis College Pool, when Tommy Pannell, Reuben Barnes, Ben Clark and Ben Miller beat out Montrose in 1 minute 41.59 seconds to win the event and secure a spot in the state field.
“It was just a matter of looking for the right combination and the right day,” DHS head coach Tom Joyner said. “Everybody’s been working really hard the past three or four weeks, a lot of specific work in going fast, sprint work, and I think it’s paid off.”
The payoff was the longest time coming for Barnes. The senior will compete at state for the first time after going as an alternate last season.
“I’ve been trying to get a state time for quite a while – super relieving,” said Barnes, son of Daudi Barnes and Elena Harper. “This group, we know how to communicate well, and we definitely work together a lot better.”
Pannell also was able to nail down an individual state cut in the 200-yard freestyle.
He finished second in the event at 1:59.89, ducking under the 2:00.5 cutoff line.
“It’s good to get your state time earlier than one meet before,” said Pannell, son of Jim and Kathy Pannell.
Kim Jirasart picked up the Demons’ only individual event win in the 50-yard freestyle in 25.34 seconds, part of a 1-2-3 finish by the Demons with Clark in second at 26.56 and Barnes in third at 27.84.
The Indians won 10 of the 12 events and left with a 128-90 victory in the dual meet.
The final meet score mattered little to Joyner, though.
He focused more on the improvement his team has made recently and the Demons’ preparation for the two biggest meets of the season coming up.
“I’ve been trying to emphasize, for lack of a better way to say it, hard work – lots of yards. I’m a believer in yardage,” Joyner said. “We’ve been specifically targeting relay starts.”
Friday also marked Durango’s last home meet of the season.
The Demons honored their two seniors, Barnes and Robert Smith, with a short recognition after the diving event.
“We were a little surprised,” Barnes said. “It’s going to be a little sad being my last meet here, but it’s a good meet to go out on.”
Now that the regular season is over, DHS will focus its attention to its final two meets.
The team will travel to Grand Junction for districts next weekend then to Thornton on May 15-16 for state.
“Districts is our thing. I’m not seeing Durango boys being district champions. We just don’t have the numbers,” Joyner said. “What I’m looking or is third, fourth. We’ll look toward doing well at districts and my state guys will go and have fun.”