Desert Hills High Thunder swim teams strike repeat state titles

Desert Hills High School swimmers celebrate winning the 4A boys and girls state championships, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, Feb. 8, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Adam Caldwell, St. George News

PROVO — Although the team scores were closer than last year’s, the Desert Hills Thunder girls and boys swim teams both repeated as 4A state champions Saturday.

State 4A championship swim meet, Provo, Utah, Feb. 7, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The two-day state meet was staged at Brigham Young University, with preliminaries Friday evening and finals on Saturday.

The Thunder girls team, who had finished second to Snow Canyon in the Region 9 meet two weeks earlier, once again battled their region rivals throughout the state meet. Also in the mix was a tough Sky View team, which rallied to take second place overall, despite getting disqualified in the first race Saturday due to one of its swimmers leaving the blocks early during the 200-yard medley relay.

In the final race of the state meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Desert Hills girls finished second to Snow Canyon but still earned enough points to end up on top. Desert Hills finished with 260 points, with runner-up Sky View ending up with 253 and Snow Canyon taking third, just half a point back at 252.5.

Meanwhile, on the boys side, Desert Hills ended the meet with an exclamation point, taking first place in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:10.33. This almost matched the all-classification Utah state record of 3:10.16 the Thunder had set at state the previous year

Thunder seniors Payton Plumb and Ashton Anderson, who were part of last year’s record-setting foursome, were joined this year by Alex Haws and Hyatt Iverson. The same four swimmers – Plumb, Haws, Iverson and Anderson, in that same order both races – had also won the 200-yard freestyle relay less than an hour earlier, posting a time 1:26.56. This was nearly four seconds faster than second-place Juan Diego. 

Plumb, who will swim for BYU starting this fall, capped off his stellar four-year career by winning both of his individual events in his future home pool. During Friday’s preliminaries, Plumb took first place in the 200 free with a remarkable time of 1:38.85, beating a decade-old state 4A mark by nearly one second as well as establishing a new all-classification state record. Plumb’s time was also more than six seconds faster than his previous personal best. He had been seeded second in the prelims with a time of 1:45.32.

Desert Hills High School swimmers celebrate winning the 4A boys and girls state championships, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, Feb. 8, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Adam Caldwell, St. George News

Then, in Saturday’s finals, Plumb showed that his performance the day before was no fluke, as he broke the 200 free mark yet again, posting a time of 1:38.75.

Plumb’s record-setting effort took months of preparation, Desert Hills head coach Shawn King told St. George News.

“We discovered over the last year that Payton has a love for the 200 free and we began discussing the opportunity of breaking the state record,” King said. “With his passion for the race, we developed some specific training throughout the season to help Payton feel the pace he needed to hold. He has devoted hundreds of hours to preparing for the prelims and finals of state and his devotion really showed in his performances.”

Plumb also took first in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 51.22 seconds, giving him four gold medals for the day.

“This was such an awesome privilege to work with such a great athlete,” King added. “Payton has been focused and incredibly diligent in preparing for this meet. His records are well deserved and I am honored to have been able to be his coach.”

King also had plenty of praise for the rest of the athletes on both of Desert Hills’ teams, mentioning numerous swimmers by name.

Anderson and Iverson swept the top two spots in both the 50 free and the 100 free. Anderson won the 50 free with a time of 21.48, with Iverson a close second at 21.52. They both edged Juan Diego senior Hiva Aitamai, who had been the favorite going into the prelims with a seed time of 21.99. Aitamai cut his time to 21.62 on Saturday but had to settle for third place, as he was unable to overtake the Desert Hills pair.

“It was really fun to put Ashton and Hyatt together. We knew they would be a very strong duo in the sprints,” King added.

“Ashton Anderson was really impressive at this meet,” King said. “He has fought through some injuries to come back to help our team.  We couldn’t have done this without him.”

King also noted the solid contributions of Haws, a senior who placed third in the 500 free and fifth in the 200 free.

“Alex has been an anchor of our team with perfect practice attendance and extremely focused training,” King said.

State 4A championship swim meet, Provo, Utah, Feb. 7, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

In addition to those swimmers already mentioned, the Desert Hills boys championship team included Carter Erickson, Sam McConkie, Dallas Schimbeck, Luke Ashton, Kade Bethers and Troy Eggers.

“We knew after graduating some really fast guys last year, that we were going to have a closer and more competitive title defense this year,” King said. “However, the guys still wanted to continue to build our culture of chasing excellence. It was inspiring to see their commitment to performing at their absolute best and achieve at the highest levels.”

As for the Desert Hills girls, King said he knew the Thunder, who had won the school’s first-ever girls swim title last year, also had their work cut out for them – particularly after finishing behind Snow Canyon at the region meet in Cedar City Jan. 25.

“This title defense was tough, but our girls came together and performed at their best,” King said. “We came into state with the focus to just do our best and see where the results ended up.”

King said the Desert Hills girls won the title by coming through with “strong performances in the most critical of moments.” 

Snow Canyon and Desert Hills had traded the lead throughout much of the day Saturday, with Sky View nipping at their heels as the Bobcats strived to overcome the 30-plus points they’d lost to that aforementioned disqualification in the first race.

Snow Canyon won two of the three relay events and also had two swimmers win both of their individual events. Sophomore Kylie Barber took first in the 200-yard individual medley with a finals time of 2:12.37. She also won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 59.32. She also swam the butterfly leg of the 200 medley relay and anchored the 400 free relay, both races of which were won by Snow Canyon.

Additionally, Snow Canyon senior Gretchen Snelders won the 50 free with a time of 24.68, an improvement of 0.81 seconds from her preliminary race the night before, when she’d finished third. Snelders also finished in a tie for first in the 100 free, cutting more than a second from her personal best and finishing in 54.12. However, Ridgeline’s Carly Eubanks came from behind to touch the wall at the same instant, resulting in a tie for first place and the top two swimmers thereby earning 18.5 points apiece.

State 4A championship swim meet, Provo, Utah, Feb. 7, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Leading the way for the Desert Hills girls was junior Caitlin Romprey, who won both the 200 free and the 100 back. She also led off with the backstroke leg of the 200 medley relay and anchored the 400 free relay, with Desert Hills placing second in both races. Romprey’s winning time in the 200 free was 1:58.75.

In the girls 100 back, the top four finishers were from four different Region 9 schools, led by Desert Hills’ Romprey’s winning time of 57.25. Taking second with a time of 58.62 was junior Cambria Callaway of Snow Canyon. Kensley Messinger of Crimson Cliffs placed third in 1:00.72, while Jesi Anderson of Canyon View took fourth in 1:03.05.

Also for Desert Hills, junior Kela Hansen won the 500 free with a time of 5:25.10, more than eight seconds faster than runner-up Kaylee Coats of Green Canyon. Hansen also placed fourth in the 200 free, her time of 2;00.89 coming just behind Coats, who took third in 2:00.65. Emma Brown of Desert Hills took fourth in the 100 free with a time of 56.93.

In addition to those athletes already mentioned, Desert Hills’ championship girls team also included swimmers Lucy Andelin, Abi Bradley, Maggie Dunham, Hallie King, Helen Smith and Kara Weiland. 

Among the other strong performances by Region 9 athletes at the state meet were Hurricane senior Ethan Kochel taking third in the 100 fly and fourth in the 200 free. Also, senior Kage Allen of Dixie placed fifth in the 50 free and seventh in the 100 free. Senior Reuben Dotson of Cedar High placed third in the 100 breast with a time of 59.28. He also took sixth in the 50 free. His younger brother Tobler Dotson placed fifth in the 100 free.

State 4A championship swim meet, Provo, Utah, Feb. 7, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

For the Snow Canyon boys, sophomore Grant Gibbs placed third in the 200 free, junior Max Barnett took second in the 200 IM, sophomore Daxton Green placed third in the 200 IM and junior Parker Christensen took fifth in the 500 free. Gibbs also took third in the 100 back with a time of 55.23, while Green placed fourth in that same race, finishing in 55.31.

Meanwhile, for the Snow Canyon girls, Callaway took third in the 50 free with a time of 25.54. Also in that race, Kyleigh Messinger of Crimson Cliffs placed fourth and younger sister Kensley placed fifth, with the siblings posting respective times of 26.21 and 26.22.

Additionally, Canyon View’s Anderson, a junior, took second in the boys 100 fly with a time of 1:01.83. Teammate Jessica Davenport placed third in the 100 free with a time of 56.88. Also for Canyon View, sophomore Kiley Reynolds placed third in the 100 breast. Freshman Aspen Simper of Cedar High placed fifth in the 100 free with a time of 57.22.

A total of 21 high schools participated in the state 4A meet. For complete results, click here

2020 UHSAA state 4A swimming championships, boys team results

  1. Desert Hills 290
  2. Sky View 260
  3. Snow Canyon 255
  4. Juan Diego 209
  5. Mountain Crest 193
  6. Cedar 129
  7. Ridgeline 124
  8. Canyon View 115
  9. Green Canyon 101
  10. Uintah 94
  11. Dixie 72
  12. Tooele 71
  13. Hurricane 64
  14. Stansbury 44
  15. Cedar Valley (Eagle Mountain, Utah) 44
  16. Ogden 43
  17. Logan 26
  18. Crimson Cliffs 15
  19. Pine View 6
  20. Bear River 4
  21. Ben Lomond 2

2020 UHSAA state 4A swimming championships, girls team results

  1. Desert Hills 260
  2. Sky View 253
  3. Snow Canyon 252.5
  4. Ridgeline 208.5
  5. Green Canyon 154
  6. Canyon View 130
  7. Tooele 129
  8. Crimson Cliffs 128
  9. Stansbury 115
  10. Mountain Crest 83
  11. Cedar 76
  12. Uintah 59
  13. Hurricane 56
  14. Logan 46
  15. Juan Diego 43
  16. Dixie 31
  17. Ogden 25
  18. Bear River 23
  19. Cedar Valley (Eagle Mountain, Utah) 15
  20. Ben Lomond 10

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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