A year ago, Lucas Motley was just happy that he qualified in one event for the state swim meet. Now, he’s become one of the best athletes in the 13-14 age group.

The Montrose Marlins swimmer — after finishing third in the 1,500-yard freestyle, seventh in the 800 freestyle and 19th in the 400 freestyle at the state swim competition last week — is heading to Fresno, California to compete from July 30 to Aug. 3 at the Arena Western Zone Senior Championships.

“My goal was to make it to zones this year, and I’m happy that I was able to this year,” Motley said Thursday.

He added he noticed last year he had more success in the 1,500 freestyle. He decided to focus on improving his time in that event, which led him to have better finishes across the board.

Motley isn’t the only Marlin heading to the West Coast. Teammates Cayden Christianson, Maggie McHugh, Julia TenNapel and Jillian Carlson will also battle at the regional meet.

Ryan King is set to compete a week later from Aug. 6-10 for the Speedo Junior National Championships in Palo Alto, California.

Marlins coach Silas Almgren was visibly proud Thursday when he spoke about both his younger and experienced swimmers. He said their achievements have culminated into a year’s worth of practice in the pool.

“It’s great for them and it’s a testament about the work that they’ve done,” he said. “... It’s nice to see these kids stay so committed and put that work into the season.”

Motley isn’t the only one new to regionals as TenNapel will also make her first appearance. Almgren said their accomplishment is all the more noteworthy considering the “massive” competition has two pools and talented swimmers coming from multiple Western states.

“It’s an interesting opportunity,” Almgren said. “... It gives them a springboard to see the next level that they might want to achieve.”

The Marlins will have a few familiar faces competing in larger meets.

Christianson, McHugh and King are preparing for their final Marlins meet before heading off for college. Almgren said he’s going to miss all three, but more importantly, is looking forward to seeing what they’ll do once they enter school.

“I want them to move. I want them to get better,” the Marlins coach said. “I want them to get better and they will. They’re not just great swimmers but good students and people.”

Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.

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