With the graduation of Madyson Merrick, the Hopkinsville swim team was looking for someone to fill in on the 200-yard freestyle relay team with seniors Lauren Langhi and Ellie Colburn along with junior Ella Falco.

The hole was a large one, but Lauren’s sister, freshman Elizabeth Langhi, filled in, and once they all got used to it, it was smooth sailing.

“It was actually crazy because I’ve always watched them swim and this was my first year,” Elizabeth said. “I always looked up to them and I was just honored to be a part of that relay. I worked really hard to get on the relay with them.”

The growth from the beginning of the year to a record-setting performance at the Region One meet is why the members of the Hopkinsville 200-yard freestyle relay team are the 2020 Toyota of Hopkinsville Southern Pennyrile Girls’ Swimming Athletes of the Year.

The hardest part is always the beginning and, for the Lady Tigers, that rang true. Falco said getting Elizabeth acquainted and coordinated with everyone else was the first obstacle, but once everyone got used to being around each other, it was fun.

“We really tried to get her used to how those work and everything,” Falco said. “The fact that me, Lauren, Ellie and Madyson Merrick had done that relay for so many years in a row it was new for all of us.”

The freshman said her older teammates taught her throughout the year.

“They taught me a lot of things,” Elizabeth said. “They helped me with my relay start because that wasn’t very good and they helped me be determined to drop times because last year I didn’t really drop that much time. This year I really did because they told me I needed to work harder and not give up.”

Fast forward to the Region One swim meet, and the four are in contention for a regional championship in the race, but what they didn’t know at the beginning was they were also creeping up on the regional record time.

Colburn said it wasn’t until they were about to take to the water in the championship race that they found out they were knocking on the door.

“We did not know until probably like five minutes before our race that we were even close,” Colburn said. “The day before you’re just focused on qualifying and doing the best you can. I didn’t even know what the record was … We were really pumped up to get it done.”

The Lady Tiger quartet was already confident, but Lauren said they just wanted to put the best performance together at the best possible time.

“We were just pumped,” Lauren said. “We all kind of knew we had it in the bag. We’ve won the 200 freestyle relay — — I think this was the third year we had won it in a row. That’s kind of our race. … Knowing we were close to the relay record — — I don’t even know that was what we were even worried about. We all were just trying to get a 25 or under.”

When Lauren touched the wall for the last time, they looked around to see their coach Keith Marquess celebrating as the record had fallen.

“The second Lauren touched that wall I almost wanted to burst into tears out of pure excitement and happiness,” Colburn said. “We looked over and saw that we had broken it and it was the highlight of my whole swim career.”

It was especially big for Lauren, who had been battling a knee injury throughout the year. She said seeing her time and helping the team break the record was a huge weight off her shoulders.

“We all hugged and then I ran to go find Keith (Marquess) and my mom, and I just looked at the sheet and said, ‘I needed that,’ ” Lauren said. “I’ve been so unconfident in myself all year because I didn’t perform as well as I always did and I didn’t drop any times. I swam a time that I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this year.

“It was just a wave of relief … That’ll probably go down as one of my favorite and best races of all time.”

Her teammates shared in her excitement.

“Just to see her pull through and overcome her knee injury was just amazing,” Colburn said. “I’m just so proud of her.”

“Lauren was really struggling with her knee, for months before that but really that week,” Falco said. “I was nervous for her … I know she was hurting, but she pulled through for our team and she always does.”

For Colburn and Lauren, winning the region crown and setting the region record was a storybook ending.

“This year was kind of bittersweet because I’ve been swimming with these girls since I was like 3 or 4 years old,” Colburn said. “As the year progressed, we started getting better and better and closer as a relay team and to finish by breaking that record was like icing on the cake. It was the best ending I could possibly ask for.”

“That was a really big deal,” Lauren said. “After swimming for however long, it was just amazing. It was the perfect ending.”

As for Elizabeth and Falco, it’s only the beginning as they are aiming to break that record again next year.

“I want to be able to get that region record again next year,” Falco said. “The relay team will be different next year ... But that would be so exciting if we could get it again.”

Header: All-KNE Girls’ Swim Team

Ella Falco, Hopkinsville

Ellie Colburn, Hopkinsville

Elizabeth Langhi, Hopkinsville

Lauren Langhi, Hopkinsville

Lauren Montgomery, Hopkinsville

Riley Robinson, Hopkinsville

Livie Jorgensen, Hopkinsville

Madyson Hallmark, Hopkinsville

Sophie Fowler, Christian Co.

Sadie Bahr, Christian Co.

Reese Dexter, Christian Co.

Alexsa Hoffman, Fort Campbell

Olivia Calese, Fort Campbell

Abigail Graham, Fort Campbell

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