Gunning for state, Region 9 swimmers take starting blocks for region championships

In a mid-season invitational meet at Cedar City, Cedar High senior Aspen Bonzo (left) swims the 100-yard freestyle against Beaver High junior Rachel McMaster (right). Bonzo finished first in the event with a time of 58.27 seconds, while McMaster placed a close second at 58.67, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 13, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

WASHINGTON CITY — High school swimmers in Region 9 have one last chance to qualify for the upcoming state 4A meet, as the region championships get underway this weekend at the Washington City Community Center.

The two-day meet features eight events on Friday, starting at 5:30 p.m., with the girls and boys alternating through four races. Events 9-22 on the schedule will take place Saturday starting at 9:30 a.m. All seven Region 9 schools are scheduled to participate. Region 9 is one of four regions in the Utah High School Activities Association’s 4A classification.

Dani Caldwell, head coach of Desert Hills High, the designated host school for the meet, said the top two placers in each individual event will secure a spot at state, provided they choose to swim that event. The top relay finishers in each of the three relays will also earn their team a spot at the state meet, she said.

Just as it is with every Utah high school meet, each swimmer is permitted to swim no more than four events, in either of the following options: either two individual events and two relays or one individual event and three relays. Swimmers and coaches must therefore strategize carefully to maximize their chances of placing highly at the state meet, which allows 24 swimmers (in three heats of eight athletes) in each individual event.

Swimmers may also qualify for state by having one of the top regular-season times for a particular event. To view the current Top 50 website listing maintained by the Utah Swim Coaches Association, click here.

Many of the swimmers who are in the top 24 are on the list for just about every event,” Caldwell said. “(For state), they have to choose two, thereby dropping them off the other lists. The other swimmers then move up the list.”

4A coaches have until Jan. 30 to officially submit their teams’ qualified entries for the UHSAA state meet, which is scheduled for Feb. 9-10 at the South Davis Recreation Center in Bountiful.

The region meet is free and open to the public, but seating may be limited.

A few of the key athletes and teams to watch are as follows:

Junior Ryan Bunn of Hurricane swims the 100-yard butterfly in a personal-best time of 53.79 seconds, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 11, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

One of the top male swimmers in the region is Hurricane junior Ryan Bunn, who took first in state in two events last year, the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly. Bunn currently has top-10 qualifying times in four different events this season, including the No. 1 spot in the 100-yard freestyle. His time of 48.28 seconds is the fastest 4A time in the state so far this season. He also is ranked No. 2 in the 100-yard butterfly, having recorded a personal best time of 53.79 seconds at Cedar City in November. Bunn is also ranked second in the 200-yard freestyle and fourth in the 50-yard freestyle.

Other top region contenders in boys individual events, several of whom currently have multiple top-10 qualifying times, include the following: sophomore Payton Plumb, junior Keegan Wawrzyniak, and senior Ashton Noah of Desert Hills; and freshman Garrett Dotson and junior Leon Weingartner of Cedar.

The Desert Hills boys also have the state’s top qualifying times in both of the freestyle relays (200 and 400 yards), while Cedar occupies the top spot in the boys 200-yard medley relay.

Other Region 9 schools will also be aiming to gain a relay spot at the state meet, which allows 16 spots for relays, with some schools fielding two relay teams.

“Both Dixie and Snow Canyon have very young men’s teams who are struggling to qualify their relays for state,” said Tamara Lemmon, who coaches both squads. “This is their last chance to place in the top 16 in order to go and they are going to be giving it everything they’ve got.”

Among female swimmers, freshman Cambria Callaway of Snow Canyon currently has top-10 times in five different events on the state’s top 50 list, including a time of 5:25.59 in the 500-yard freestyle, third-best in the state 4A this season.

In addition, Cedar sophomore Elisa Price is currently ranked No. 1 in the 4A state list in the 100-yard backstroke with a season-best time of 58.79 seconds. She is also ranked third in the state in the butterfly. Her senior teammate Aspen Bonzo is one of the state’s top sprinters, currently ranked eighth in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 25.74 seconds.

Other female swimmers expected to vie for the top podium spots at region include the following: senior Samari Nelson and juniors Hailey Greer and India Sherman of Dixie; juniors Trinity Schimbeck, Sarah Hansen, Mya Ottenschot and Taylor Porter, and freshmen Caitlin Romprey and Madison Dunlavy of Desert Hills; and junior Nicole Christensen and sophomore Stephanie Dansie of Snow Canyon.

In girls relay events, Desert Hills currently has the second-best 4A time in the state in both the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay, along with a No. 4 ranking in the 200-yard relay.

Event details

  • What: UHSAA Region 9 championship swim meet
  • When: Friday, Jan. 26 at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 27, starting at 9:30 a.m.
  • Where: Washington City Community Center, 350 Community Center Drive, Washington.
  • Cost: Free.

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