A Weekend to Remember

Grayson Blalock, Sports Editor

FORT COLLINS- “Alice, please lower your expectations.”

There are 5,554 miles between Erie, Colorado, and Rome, Italy. Alice Mazzetti traveled all of those miles as a foreign exchange student.

She happened to be a pretty good swimmer, too.

“When I got placed in a school with a swim team, I was really excited because I’ve swam my entire life. I was expecting for sure to make new friends.” says Mazzetti.

“When I found out the team was brand new, I was surprised but it was incredible when I saw how many girls joined the team, it made me so happy that girls wanted to swim, because it’s the best sport a teenager can do.”

The season started off with a state qualifying (and school record) time in the 200 medley relay. Over the course of the season, Mazzetti, standout juniors Payten Irwin and Meredith Olson, and fellow seniors Kailey Pickering, Shay Maruna, and Kaelin Hawkins qualified for state in individual events, as well as freshman Bella Reichel in the 400 free relay.

Then came state.

The weekend started off with a walk of champions. (embed videos here). From the walk, the swimmers went to Coach Shipley’s classroom (a chemistry and AP Research teacher at Erie) and each girl wrote their wish for state on their own balloon. They went to the front of the school and released their balloons into the sky.

“I knew what I wanted from state all week. Writing my wish down and sending it into the sky with everyone else’s just felt so magical and added to the wonderfulness of the entire experience,” said Pickering

“I just started crying as we released them into the air,” said Hawkins. “I’m not sure what exactly about it made me cry, but it was just so sweet. I couldn’t hold back the tears.”

After watching the balloons sail away in the ice cold, clear Colorado sky, they hopped on the bus and headed to Loveland for lunch.

Lunch started with a trip to Panera Bread, where the team munched on salads and sandwiches.

After finishing eating at Panera, there was still plenty of time to kill before the team had to be in Fort Collins.

So, some of the team went to PetSmart and Target.

At PetSmart, they looked at snakes, cats, turtles, and, of course, fish. Then, they went to Target. Alice got lost, and found out a new way to find people in a store. She called like a bird until she found the others.

Irwin pondered over whether or not she should go get a burrito from Chipotle while waiting on the bus. “This is the most important decision of my life. Should I get a burrito? Should I not get a burrito?”

She got a burrito.

30 minutes later, the bus arrived at the pool.

The swimmers walked off the bus and into EPIC, or the Edora Pool Ice Center, but over the course of the weekend, its nickname felt quite fitting.

The meet started with Friday’s prelims, with teams splashing in for warmups before the competition began.

When it did, Erie put themselves in excellent position for the next day. Irwin qualified third in the fly and second in the 50 free. At the end of the night, every Erie swimmer had booked a return ticket to the finals.

The next day, sophomore Sophie Wessbecker woke up before the crack of dawn for the diving prelims. She had several good dives, but an incomplete twist on one of them kept her out of the semifinals.

After the diving prelims wrapped up, the waiting game began. It was a very long hour between diving ending and teams beginning to trickle in for the afternoon’s finals.

Mazzetti was the first swimmer in the pool for the Tigers, starting off the 200 IM relay, which finished seventh. Irwin, as the night would show, pushed Erie, posting the fastest fly-split time of anyone in the finals.

Mazzetti was back in the pool immediately for the B Final of the 200 Free. She would finish seventh.

Erie had a break during the 200 IM before one of the two biggest events of the night: the 50 Free.

Irwin, who qualified second, dropped eight-tenths of a second off her time, which was enough to out-touch the fastest qualifier, Caitlin Cairns, by .09 seconds and give Erie its first swimming state championship.

Diving then took an hour before the other biggest event of the night: the 100 fly.

Irwin would one-up herself in the fly: she dropped over two seconds off her time, which was enough to win by a second over Cairns (again) and qualify her for Junior Nationals.

“It (felt) incredible and I can’t thank my team and coaches enough for their support throughout the season.” said Irwin.

In the B Final of the 100 Free, Meredith Olson came in fifth by a heartbreakingly close time: just going three one hundredths of a second faster would have won her third.

Olson would help Erie back to third in the B Final of the 200 Free relay.

In the final event of the night, it was Mazzetti, Olson, and Irwin, along with freshman Bella Reichel, capturing seventh place (again) for Erie in the 400 Free relay. And how dominant was Irwin? Her split time of 53.19 seconds was the fastest in the pool, and would have won her the 100 Free had she chosen to swim it.

Irwin’s double golds, plus the performances from Olson and Mazzetti in individual events and relays, as well as the relay times of Kailey Pickering, Kaelin Hawkins, Shay Maruna, and Bella Reichel would land the Tigers ninth place as a team.

After the awards, the bus left EPIC and headed to Olive Garden. On the ten minute drive, it hit at least three different curbs.

Everyone piled out of the bus into the 20 degree weather.

“CHEESEBURGERS!” yells Mazzetti as everyone runs inside.

No one told Alice that we were going to an Italian restaurant.

We sit down and Alice looks at the menu and realizes it is “Italian” food.

While she’s looking at the menu, the waiter brings at least 20 breadsticks. By the time he comes back two minutes later with drinks, they’re all gone.

“Those disappeared fast” he says. He brings another batch of 20.

We all order, and then the food comes.

“Alice, please, please lower your expectations” begs Maruna. Everyone else chimes in: “Alice, this food will be terrible.” “Alice, please don’t expect good food.”

Alice tried a very small bite of her pasta, then chewed for a minute. She made a face before saying “it’s… ok.. I guess”

Well then.

No one was able to finish after each person had about six breadsticks.

Alice hadn’t given up on Olive Garden, so she ordered tiramisu for dessert.

This brought on another round of the team begging her to lower her expectations (she makes homemade tiramisu). Irwin yelled “Lower your expectations SEVENTEEN notches!”

The tiramisu came. She had a small bite and chewed for a minute. Then her eyes lit up and she said “This is pretty good!”

Olive Garden, you have been redeemed.

The weekend ended on the bus ride back from Olive Garden, which included Snapchat, sleeping, and a lot of laughter.

Kailey Pickering. Meredith Olson. Payten Irwin.

Alice Mazzetti.

Chances are you’ve heard a little bit about them. They’re the best female swimmers at Erie High School. After swimming for Longmont, Niwot, and in Italy, they were part of Erie’s first state swim team. They placed 9th as a team, and Irwin won the 50 free and the 100 fly. But in the end?

“We all had wishes, some of them came true, some of them didn’t; but finishing in the top 10 in (our) first year as a swim team was the highlight of it all.”