Every year, the high school state swim meet brings two words to mind: Brighton and Skyline. And once again, the two powerhouses are among the favorites as the state's best swimmers and divers converge on BYU this weekend to battle for the sport's top honors.
All three classifications — 5A, 4A and 3A — will crown champions by the end of this week, and all three promise to include lots of drama in getting there.
The Bengals return to the state meet with four consecutive girls' championships and five straight boys' championships in hand. Both squads won easily in 2012, each defeating second-place Bingham by nearly 100 points.
The question is, will senior superstar Long Gutierrez set any more records? The Mexican native has already set two records this season and, out of 11 possible swim events, currently owns six 5A records and four state records.
On the girls' side, Autumn Wolfgram of West and Brianna Francis of Alta are both swimming well.
The Skyline swim team has been battling adversity in its own pool throughout the season. After the school had air-conditioning installed over the summer, the Eagles went to practice only to find cold water after the boiler was turned off week after week.
"We would have to wait for the water temperature to heat back up, which took a couple of days," Skyline head coach Joe Pereira said. "For a long time, we could only have practices three days a week."
With the disruption, Pereira's defending champion teams had to work smarter, not just harder.
"We are pretty close to our standard routine" for the week leading up to the state meet, Pereira said. "It is mostly mental, honing that desire and focusing on doing the little things that make a big difference."
Leading the top-seeded Skyline girls team is junior Lillian Moore, who holds the 4A record in the 100-yard butterfly. Pushing her will be a pair of freshmen representing Highland: Zoe Phillips and Eva Gontrum.
The girl to beat, however, is Mountain Crest junior Hailey Pabst, a 4A record-holder in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle events.
"She swam distance last year and is swimming sprints this year," Pereira said. "She is so far out in front of everyone else, all she can chase is records."
He added that while the Highland and Mountain Crest girls' teams both have top guns, he is hoping the added depth of his team will make the difference in the team competition.
"Our girls are extremely hungry for it," Pereira said.
On the boys' side, Mountain Crest returns from its second-place finish a year ago to enter state as the favorite, with Springville and Skyline rounding out the top three.
Mountain Crest seniors William Watts and Sean O'Very are two potential record-breakers to watch out for, while senior David Amirkhanashvili, a top-seeded sprinter, and junior James Sorensen headline the Eagles' lineup.
"He has been outstanding all year," Pereira said of Sorensen. "We are looking for good things from him this weekend."
The favorite on both the girls' and the boys' side in the smallest classification is the Wasatch Wasps.
"They have never won a girls' title, and they will be right there," said Dan Peterson, the Stansbury coach and president of the Utah Swimming Coaches Association. "It would be a good way to go out before moving to 4A next year."
Defending champions Judge Memorial, on the girls' side, and Park City, on the boys' side, are also back in the running.
In the individual competition, Mitchell Hutchings of Pine View, Brandon Johnson of Tooele and Zach Carfi of Park City will all be near the front of the pack.
In the boys' 50-yard freestyle, Makai Smith from Desert Hills, Phillip Hojnacki from Juan Diego and Ryan Brown from Stansbury will be going head-to-head after earning the top three times throughout the season.
"Just 22 seconds and it's done," Peterson said of the short sprint race. "It could be any one of those kids, or somebody else."
On the girls' side, McKenzie Barber of Snow Canyon and Dani Kfoury of Intermountain Christian are both at or near the top of the leader boards.
"Amelia Draney stands out above everybody else," Peterson said of the Desert Hills junior. "She will probably win two events going away. She is a girl to watch out for."1 comment on this story
Draney currently holds 3A records in both the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle.
Designated a non-scoring swim event, the state diving meet will take place at BYU on Thursday afternoon.
The favorite to win the title is three-time defending champion Nate Makarewicz, a West High senior who will dive for Princeton University next season.
"With the region meet he had, he actually expanded his distance from the rest of the field," coach Gene McIntyre said of Makarewicz, who has been the top-ranked diver all season.