PROVO — The Judge Memorial girls swim team just wanted to give the other 15 200-yard medley relay teams a close race.
Instead, the team dove into the opening event of the 3A state swim meet at BYU on Friday afternoon and came out with a first-place finish.
“Our girls, crazy as it sounds, thought they might have a chance (to win),” said Judge coach Matt Finnigan. “I told them, ‘it’s going to take your best race in order to do that.’ The fact of the matter is all four of them had their best race.”
The Judge team, comprised of sophomore Allison Witte, sophomore Marcela Vasquez, senior Kaley Banyai and junior Emileeann Moran, completed the relay with a time of 1:54.34, dropping 4.65 seconds from their qualifying time.
“We hadn’t been able to hit that one all season and they just were able to converge and hit their stride,” Finnigan continued. “Each one of them had their fastest split by about a second.”
He added that, while the goal is for a team to peak at the end of the season as his relay team did, it’s not an exact science.
“It’s part science, part art and a lot of heart. From that standpoint, I think we came out OK.”
Wasatch, the favorite heading into the race, touched the wall just 11 one-hundredths of a second later at 1:54.45, breaking its own school record by two seconds.
“Give (credit) to Judge,” Wasatch coach Steve Marsing said. “We would have liked to have won that, but it was a great swim.”
The points from that second-place finish were crucial for the Wasps as the team works toward a goal no other Wasatch girls swim team has ever met — winning a state title. The team finished the first day of competition atop the leaderboard with 124 points. Judge is sitting in second place with 108 points.
The event responsible for most of the point difference was the 50-yard freestyle as four Wasatch swimmers earned points in the Day 1 finale.
“Live and die by the 50,” Marsing said. “We got three in the top six; that put us right back in the (team) race.”
Sophomore Phebe James won with a time of 25.49 seconds; junior Megan Mounteer was fourth (25.76); senior Rachel Low was sixth (26.03); and freshman Sierra Enos was 15th (27.02) and earned two points toward the team effort.
Snow Canyon senior McKenzie Barber shaved 1.57 seconds off her entry time to take first in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:16.00.
In the 200-yard freestyle, Desert Hills junior Amelia Draney won the championship with a time of 1:52.37. She was 11 seconds faster than the second-place finisher and missed beating the 3A record she set a year ago by just eight one-hundredths of a second.
Just two lanes over and 13 seconds slower was Draney’s younger sister, Megan, who earned her own fourth-place finish with a time of 2:05.83.
In the boys team competition, Wasatch grabbed a commanding lead with 139 points. Region foe Park City is in second with 87 points and Stansbury in third with 67 points.
Just as it did for the Wasatch girls, the 50 free aided the Wasatch boys in the team standings as three different swimmers earned points for the school. They were Bryce Mounteer in second place (22.54 seconds), Brady Winward in fourth place (22.77) and Hunter Tolbert in seventh place (22.95).
The winner of the 50 free was Cedar City senior Mitchell Brown, who just barely out-touched Mounteer with a time of 22.50 seconds.
“Today, we’re really satisfied with the way our team swam,” said Wasatch senior David Finley. “Overall, we had a lot of best times. My individuals were significantly improved. More importantly, the team is doing great and we’re ahead.”
Finley swam the backstroke leg of the boys medley relay team and was followed into the water by junior Hunter Hallows, Winward, a senior, and senior Sam England. The Wasps earned the relay title with a time of 1:39.19.
Other winners in the boys competition include Pine View junior Mitchell Hutchings, who dropped 2.89 seconds to win the 200 free with a time of 1:45.84, and Park City senior Zach Carfi, who won the 200 IM with a time of 2:01.30 after shaving 3.09 seconds off his qualifying time.
“It’s like all the work I’ve put in the last four years has paid off,” said Carfi, who will continue his swimming career at Wesleyan University in Connecticut next year. “This chapter of my life is almost over and it’s nice to cap it off with a win.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org