swimming

The Telluride Torpedoes swim team’s junior swimmers who made the trip to Lamar for the state meet last weekend are, front to back, Kinsey Koenig, Keaton Koenig, Charlie Clark, David Spinei, Daniel Spinei and Coach Lisa Ball. (Courtesy photo)

Telluride Torpedoes coach Lisa Ball’s pride for her team fills an Olympic-sized swimming pool. In her 18th year of coaching the swim team, she’s watched the program balloon, as interest in competitive swimming grows. This year she had 50 kids on the team with a waiting list of hopefuls. The deep pool of swimmers — pun intended — resulted in a remarkable outing at last weekend’s state meet, a third place team finish in their division. And, Camden Thomas’s high-point standing — a first in Torpedo team history — was the cherry on top for a successful meet. There were eight teams in their division.

Ball said that 30 Torpedoes swimmers — “more than ever” — had times in various events throughout the season good enough to qualify for the seasonal state meet in Lamar, Aug. 6-8, but just a dozen athletes made the trip. Once there, Ball said, “they all kicked butt.”

“It was amazing,” she said. “They all had their personal best times.”

The seasonal meet is for teams that can only get in the pool in the summer, as opposed to being able to train year-round. The separation evens the playing field, and teams are placed in divisions depending on the number of swimmers they field. Twelve Telluride competitors in the lanes last weekend meant they team was placed in the medium division. The Torpedoes are part of the Western Slope League.

Even compared to the rest of the seasonal teams, Telluride’s season is exceptionally short.

“Most seasonal teams can start in April, but we don’t get in the pool until the middle of May,” Ball explained.

Still, she marvels at the level of effort each swimmer puts into their skills once they hit the lanes.

“I’m impressed how hard they work,” she said. “I’m adamant about hard workouts but stress the fun of swimming. It’s fun to watch them.”

The hard work paid off in Lamar as personal bests were logged in every event, for every swimmer.

“The amount of time they took off was impressive,” Ball said. “They crushed it all season.

For Camden Thomas, who swims in the 15-18 age group, getting a high-point standing served to burnish the Torpedos outstanding meet. Thomas swam 10 events and medaled in all 10, making him the team’s top swimmer, and the third-ranked swimmer in the boys 15-18 age group in the state. High-points are accrued with each podium finish at a meet, Ball explained.

“We’ve never had anyone do that,” Ball said proudly.

Being a competitive swimmer in Telluride has had its challenges through the years. In addition to a shorter season than that of other seasonal teams, the first Torpedoes swam in a non-standard pool. The old pool was just 20 yards long and 4 feet deep. Even when the new pool was built — it’s 25 yards long and 9 feet deep — there was no extra money in the budget for the infrastructure needed for competitive swimming. Ball said the team held a successful swimathon seven years ago to raise funds for diving blocks, a timing system and lane ropes.

“We needed all this stuff to be able to host a meet,” she said.

With the proper gear acquired and more and more young athletes interested in swimming, Ball’s program grew and grew. This summer, the team was so large that practices had to be divided into two sessions to accommodate all her swimmers, with the older age groups working out first, followed by the younger swimmers. And her team’s depth meant that older, seasoned swimmers such as senior Lila Renke, could act as assistant coaches to the younger swimmers, teaching technique, competition tips and sharing their enthusiasm for the sport.

Ball shared her next lofty goal for Telluride and the Torpedoes, and that is to host the summer state meet. Teams bid each year to host and Telluride lost out in this year’s bidding. The reason will strike a familiar tone, as it’s an issue that plagues locals and visitors alike.

“The feedback we got for not being selected for 2022 was that there are not enough affordable housing options,” Ball said. “We have one of the nicest pools, nicest diving blocks, great meet stuff, but housing is our biggest downfall.”

Ball is undeterred and will be bidding to host the 2023 meet. How will you address the housing situation, she was asked. Ball, the swim coach with a huge stable of swimmers eager to play host to the state meet, answered readily. The Torpedoes will have another swimathon to raise money.