ST. GEORGE – As fall turns to winter, many southern Utahns begin to long for warmer weather. But there’s one group of high school athletes who are literally diving into the cold season. The high school swimming season is underway and the region swimmers are excited to be back in the pools.
After watching the football and soccer players get their time in the spotlight, the Southern Utah swimmers are eager to once again make a splash for their respective schools.
Region 9 was well represented earlier this year at the 2012 3A state championship meet and brought home multiple individual state titles, many of which were won by sophomores who will be returning as juniors this season.
Desert Hills’s Amelia Draney and Pine View’s Mitchell Hutchings both took home the top spot in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle and will both play integral roles on their teams this year as experienced leaders.
“Kids who have swam at that level before help the others who haven’t,” Desert Hills coach Dani Caldwell said. “It’s really good for the kids who are coming onto the team to have examples of what it means to work hard and how that pays off.”
And although swimming appears to be more about individual effort than other sports, team members still rely on each other to put together a total team effort.
“You can’t just do it with star players,” Caldwell said. “It certainly helps, but it takes a team to win a championship. Each kid has a specific role and it’s really an important role.”
Caldwell, who also coaches Pine View and Hurricane, led the Desert Hills girls to a second-place state finish earlier this year and the boys to a second-place finish in 2011. She said the team is smaller this year, which means less room for error for each swimmer during the season.
“Each swimmer can swim in two events and two relays at a meet,” Caldwell said. “The more kids you have that qualify for state the better off you are. If you have more kids, you have a little bit more leeway.”
But despite having smaller teams, Caldwell is confident they can succeed both at the region and state level.
“Even with smaller numbers, we have some of the top swimmers in the state,” she said. “We’ll still compete for a state title. We’re just going to get as close as we can to it. If all of the swimmers individually step up and that can earn us enough points to win a state title that would be great. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Coach Kyle Durieux, who coaches both Snow Canyon and Dixie, said he expects most teams in the region to field successful teams.
“The southern region is actually very competitive,” Durieux said. “In the next few years I think you are going to see the torch pass back and forth. Right now it is a numbers game. The deeper and wider your program, the better off you will be.”
Durieux said his teams have a large number of freshmen competing this year, but are growing into the teams they need to be. He said the Dixie boys team, behind the leadership of Michael Pantelakis and Ivan Cataluna, is strong and should have a good shot at state.
Durieux also said he expects great things from the Snow Canyon girls team with McKenzie Barber leading the way and Tiffany Farris, Bryn Condie and Erin Call all up-and-coming.
“I have high hopes this year and in years to come for both our teams,” Durieux said. “I just hope that the communities see swimming as a sport that takes more dedication and determination than any other sport and will support the push to be a real force in our state. We have a saying in swimming, ‘If it were any easier it would be any other sport.'”
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