For the second straight year, the Lady Devil swimmers are state champions.
The Grand County High School girls swim team won the 2A title during the state competition on Thursday, Feb. 9 at Brigham Young University in Provo.
“It was a great meet from start to finish,” said GCHS head coach Brian Pierce, who also was named the 2A girls Coach of the Year for the third consecutive time. “Anything can happen, especially in the championships. Our swimmers stayed focused and just swam their races.”
Grand’s girls scored 244 team points at the meet, while runner-up Emery had 172 points and third-place North Summit scored 170.5. A total of 14 schools participated in the state meet.
The Lady Devils started off the meet with a bang, winning the first race, the 200-yard medley relay. In that event, Grand’s team of Mary Kimmerle (backstroke), London Richards (breaststroke), Alexa Pierce (butterfly), and River Richards (freestyle) recorded a time of 1 minute, 56.56 seconds, breaking the old state record of 2:00.59 by more than four seconds.
“It was great to win that first relay,” said Alexa Pierce, a senior. “It helped us get our confidence up and stay focused right from the beginning.”
Later in the meet, those same four swimmers also won the 200-yard freestyle relay, posting a time of 1:45.10, also a new state 2A record.
Individually, Alexa Pierce won the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 2:17.45 and the 100-yard butterfly in a time of 1:01.57. Both times were personal bests for Pierce, and her butterfly time broke her own state record of 1:01.75.
Kimmerle, a sophomore, won the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 25.55 seconds, briefly tying her with teammate Pierce for the state 2A freestyle record.
Coming in a close second in that race was Millard High School sophomore Drew Roper, who posted a time of 25.63. Roper later established a new 2A record in the 50-yard freestyle by swimming the first leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay for Millard in a time of 25.40.
Kimmerle later finished a close second to Roper in the 100-yard backstroke. Roper’s time of 1:00.74 and Kimmerle’s time of 1:02.91 were both faster than Roper’s old state record of 1:03.23, set last year.
River Richards, a senior, won the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 2:09.17. She also placed third in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 57.91 seconds. London Richards, a sophomore, won the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:15.08, a new school record. She also placed fourth in the 100-yard butterfly.
Senior Jayelen Knowles also was a two-time individual medalist for Grand, placing fourth in both the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle races. She had been seeded eighth and seventh, respectively, but set personal-best times in both races by several seconds to move up onto the medals podium.
Knowles also swam the first leg of the final race of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay, in which Grand’s swimmers earned third-place medals. Joining Knowles in that event were freshman Jordyn Reidhead, senior Megan Pfnister, and junior Brooklin Hugentobler.
Pfnister also took seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke and Hugentobler placed seventh in the 100-yard freestyle. Hugentobler also took 12th in the 50-yard freestyle. Freshman Kiersten Kimmerle also earned points for the Lady Devils by placing 11th in the 200-yard freestyle and 12th in the 100-yard breaststroke.
“We had a total of 33 personal best times set by our swimmers at the state meet, 12 by the girls and 21 by the boys. Everyone swam great and we got some terrific times,” said coach Pierce. “I’m very proud of our whole team, for their dedication throughout the season.”
In addition to the nine girls who competed and scored at the state meet, four other swimmers were part of the Lady Devils’ team this year, namely junior Charly Kohler; sophomores Corrina Kause and Isabel Becerra; and freshman Josie Wakefield.
The GCHS boys placed fourth overall at the state meet, scoring a total of 141 points. Emery was the winner of the boys title with 237.5 points, while North Summit was second with 165.5 and Rowland Hall was third with 154.
GCHS sophomore Braxten Pierce won both of his individual events at state, taking first in the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:48.82, a new state record, and first in the 500-yard freestyle in a personal-best time of 5:08.31.
Also competing for the Red Devil boys at state were seniors Sidney Shumway, Ben Shafer, Ethan Clark, and Jonathan Park; junior Tyler Moreau; and sophomores Jarett Reidhead, Corbin Arbon, Alex Lacy, Conner Ainge, and Nathan Shafer. Nine of Grand’s 11 male swimmers who competed earned points by placing at state.
Other members of the GCHS boys team who attended the state meet were seniors Trent Disbro, Cameron Wakefield, and Jacob Johnston; and sophomores Cody Johnston and Trayken Robertson. Two additional team members who didn’t go to state were sophomore Kasey Kemp and freshman David Minor.
When the Red Devils’ bus arrived back in town about 10:15 p.m. last Thursday night, the state champions were honored with the traditional fire truck ride down Moab’s Main Street. Many parents and supporters joined in the procession of cars following the fire truck, honking their horns and flashing their lights. Almost every one of Grand’s swim team members, both girls and boys, waved and shouted from atop the fire truck to numerous supporters lining the streets.
“I’m very proud of our whole team,” said coach Pierce. “Everyone knows that we have a job to do, and that is to consistently improve as a swimmer. They know that they’re all part of a team, and will do whatever they can to help the team succeed.”
Pierce expressed thanks to assistant coach Wendy Young, as well as the team’s athletes, their parents and families, and many other supporters and sponsors, in addition to the Moab Recreation and Aquatics Center staff.
“We couldn’t have done it without all the consistent support that we’ve received from everyone involved,” Pierce said.