FORT COLLINS – The smile that washed over Loveland swimmer Brooke Hansen’s face had nothing to do with her 100-breaststroke state title. Nor did it have to do with her newfound attention, or the fact she’ll be the favorite to win the breaststroke and 200 IM at state for the next two years.
It had to do with the race she got creamed in.
“Thanks, Missy,” said Hansen to four-time gold medalist Missy Franklin after the Regis Jesuit star beat her All-American time by nearly five seconds in 200 IM.
Saturday at the 5A state finals in Fort Collins, Franklin claimed two more state records to go along with her five others. But as the wide-grinned senior celebrated with her teammates after winning the 5A team title Saturday, she looked back at a high school season that was met with handfuls of praise and criticism.
“I had a lot of trouble deciding whether or not to swim high school this year,” a raspy-voiced Franklin said after the state meet. “I prayed a lot about it, and I felt God was giving me mixed signals.”
Some people would come up and thank her, others would ridicule her decision.
“I think some girls love it, and others think it is an unfair advantage,” Fossil Ridge swim parent Catherine Fawcett said. “Some want to try to beat the best. Some don’t. A lot of it is parents.”
In fact, one parent, who chose not to give his name, said Franklin “takes the competition out of (the high school state meet).”
In his opinion, it robbed other girls of their moment in the sun.
“I know it sounds like sour grapes, but these girls know they can’t win if (Franklin) is there,” he said. “Missy has so many better things ahead of her in this sport. Some of these girls… this is it.”
High school swimmers were also conflicted with competing against the state celebrity, who was followed by a CHSAA bodyguard for the entire two-day meet.
On the pool deck, eventual 2013 individual state champions said they were thrilled when they heard Franklin, who raced in only two individual events Saturday, dropped out of their respective events days earlier. That’s when they knew they had a prayer to win.
On the day state lineups were announced, Fossil Ridge swimmer Rhianna Williams spent her afternoon refreshing the page.
“I just did it over and over,” said Williams, who won the 50 and 100 freestyle – both events that Franklin owns the state record.
And Ralston Valley’s Erin Seymour-Metzger leapt out her chair in math class when she heard Franklin wasn’t racing her events – the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle.
“I just started screaming in joy,” said Seymour-Metzger, who took the state title in both races.
Instead, Franklin swam in two of her lesser known events – the 500 freestyle and the IM. And in the end, she crushed the other swimmers – and then some.
In the 500 freestyle, Boulder swimmer Amanda Richey said it was nerve racking to stand by Franklin.
“I mean, she’s like an Olympian, and she’s just so – really tall,” said Richey, who finished more than 13 seconds behind Franklin in second place. “You just go up there and race for second (place).”
Picture this: In the freestyle Franklin took 14 strokes to get the length of the pool. Richey took 17-to-18. Some other swimmers in the finals even reached 20 strokes.
And in the 200 IM, Franklin did more of the same.
“You just focus on your race,” Hansen said as she begins to laugh. “Not that girl way ahead.”
Last season at this meet, Franklin wasn’t an Olympian yet. She hadn’t sat down to one-on-one interviews with legendary broadcaster Bob Costas yet. She was revered by millions yet.
And at the same time, she didn’t have the pressures that she has now, either.
“I think the comments from other people would bug me the most,” said Franklin about returning to high school swimming. “The one thing that I hate is disappointing people. It’s the one thing I can’t live with myself when I do that. I didn’t want to disappoint parents who wanted to see their kids become state champions or kids who wanted to be state champions.”
But Franklin returned to be with all of her friends, like any 17-year-old kid would want to do, she says.
“She’s like the friendliest person ever,” said Richey, who’s known Franklin for nearly five years. “She is just so energetic and down to earth. No matter who you are, if you know her, you love her.”
And while Franklin enjoyed her final moments of high school competition, swimmer-by-swimmer from other schools, including Richey and Hansen, came up to the Olympian.
That’s when Franklin knew in her heart she’d definitely done the right thing.
“They just said “Thank you,” Franklin said. “That meant everything to me.”
5A Team Results
1. Regis Jesuit
2. Fossil ridge