On Thursday, Jan. 25 the Red Devils swim team competed in the 3A Region 15 championships at Emery High School in Castle Dale. After a promising meet, the team waited to see which swimmers would qualify for state based on their performances.
“There were a lot of good swims,” said head coach Brian Pierce of Thursday’s meet. “It’s always good when that happens.” Overall, the team achieved 35 new personal records. It was especially important it happened at the region meet, though, as it was the final chance for swimmers to qualify for the state meet. “I think the kids were more focused this meet,” continued Pierce. “They realized this was their last chance to qualify. That put a fire under them and they really performed. I think for the most part you’re always going to have stress, and this meet was really key for a lot of kids. It was a good way to end the regular season and a very positive meet for us.”
The GCHS girls placed third overall with a total of 139 points. The boys also took third place, scoring 227 points as a team.
“We never really focus on winning meets, because they don’t get you anywhere,” Pierce said. The coach explained that, at this meet, it was all about the times. The Red Devils have been gearing up for their championship meets all season, and a lot of the swimmers saw the results they had been hoping for. “Sometimes you plateau during the season, so it was nice to see some big time drops,” Pierce said.
Three Red Devils had an exciting, cutthroat race during the boys’ 200-yard freestyle; the GCHS swimmers were seeded next to each other in the same heat. Trayken Robertson, Nathan Shafer and Preston Barlow placed sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, in the event.
“None of them were going to let the others beat them,” Pierce said of the race and how it encouraged each swimmer to push himself to his limits.
Since first and second place swimmers in each event automatically qualify for state slots, several Red Devils knew immediately after the region meet that they would be going to the championship rounds. Alex Lacy secured his place at state when he placed first in the boys’ 100-yard butterfly with a time of 1:04.98. Qualifying for state in two events, Mary Kimmerle won the girls’ 200-yard individual medley on a time of 2:24.90, and placed first in the girls’ 500-yard freestyle in a time of 5:49.31. Braxten Pierce was also a double champion, winning the boys’ 500-yard freestyle in 5:17.80, and placing first in the boys’ 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:51.62.
The three athletes could relax slightly and prepare for state, as the rest of their teammates waited for the official list of qualifiers to be published Tuesday, Jan 30.
“It’s always a big deal to them, they’ve kept track of their times on the top-50 website,” Pierce said. “This is probably the most stressful time of the year. Play the game and wait and see what happens.”
Coach Pierce’s entries were due at 3 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 29. He is allowed to enter each swimmer in two events, to be pitted against other entries throughout the state. The fastest 24 swimmers entered in each event will be selected to swim at the state meet.
“Based on what they’ve done at the meets this year, we pick and choose where we think the other teams are going and what our swimmers’ best chances are,” Pierce said of the process. He added he hopes, with his entries, that 17 swimmers on the GCHS team will qualify.
“All three relays for boys and girls have qualifying times,” added Pierce. The strongest relay for the GCHS boys is the 200-yard freestyle relay team, which is currently ranked fifth in the state. The GCHS girls are ranked highest in the 400-yard freestyle relay, and are ranked ninth overall going into the state championships. This year, for the first time, the Red Devils will compete in the 3A state division, meaning the schools will be larger and the competition will be faster.
“When they first announced it, there were a lot of mixed feelings about swimming being moved up to 3A. It’s hard for the smaller 3A teams, sometimes. Numbers really matter in a meet where they score out to the 16th place,” Pierce said.
Despite the added challenge, Pierce believes the swimmers will continue to compete in the same spirit as always. “We focus on times,” he reiterated. “If you can look at where you are and where you’ve improved, that’s where your success comes from, and not what everyone else is doing.”
The team has one week to prepare for the state championships — and Pierce said the training regimen will get down to swimming essentials.
“We’ll go back to basics, really work on our starts and finishes,” Pierce said of the team’s training at this point in the season. “We’ll pick a couple things per swimmer to focus on, and keep them positive the whole time. I think that’s really, really important. They know it’s possible, so if they just keep focused, they know it can happen.”
The state 3A swimming championship meet will be held Thursday, Feb. 8 at the Wasatch Aquatic Center in Heber City.