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High school swimming: Realignment has shifted state's prep swimming landscape

Published: Monday, Dec. 16 2013 8:30 p.m. MST

Lehi High School swimming practice at the Lehi Legacy Center, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

As another high school sports season begins, the state's most recent region and classification realignment is once again a popular topic of conversation.

This time, it is those competing in swimming doing the talking. Specifically, 4A girls and boys teams, whose competition landscape expanded by a great deal during the offseason, have been discussing the changes.

“The sliding and shifting of teams with realignment makes it hard to know how things will play out this year,” said Joe Pereira, who is the head coach at Skyline as well as the president of the Utah Swimming Coaches Association. “4A just became huge. There is going to be a battle among 4A teams, as there always is.”

In the 4A girls team competition, defending champion Skyline, 2013 runner-up Mountain Crest and third-place finisher Highland all return strong teams heading into the 2013-14 season. The same is true for Wasatch and Judge Memorial, who finished first and second in 3A a year ago and were both thrown into the 4A mix. Add to that the Kearns Cougars, who placed eighth in 5A last season and have traditionally had strong swimmers.

The boys team competition has a very similar storyline, featuring Mountain Crest, Springville and Skyline, the top three 4A finishers in 2013, with the addition of 3A defending champion Wasatch as well as 5A fifth-place finisher Kearns.

“Kearns is going to disrupt some things,” Pereira said. “They may not have the numbers to win state, but they will have enough to make a difference for someone else. They will have kids doing well and scoring points in races that impacts the final results.”

Along with losing some powerhouses to 4A, the 3A classification also lost some of its teams from smaller schools due to the expansion of the state competition. For the first time, 2A will hold its own state meet, a slightly smaller one-day event that will take place in between the diving state meet and the opening session of 4A.

“We have some fun things going on,” Pereira said. “Adding the new division with 2A will be unique this year. It will add another fun dimension.”

The expansion includes 15 total teams from private, public and charter schools. The new swimming classification has representation all across traditional 2A, including a handful of schools that have been competing in the 3A state meet in recent years.

In the larger classifications, the move by Wasatch into 4A has left Park City in the 3A driver’s seat. A year ago, the Miners placed second and third in the girls and boys team competitions, respectively, and look to only improve on those results.

“Park City has made a huge jump forward this year,” Pereira said. “They have been beating up on everybody so far this year.”

Desert Hills, which placed third in boys and fourth in girls, and Juan Diego, fifth and sixth, respectively, will also look to make a commotion in the 3A competition.

In 5A, however, some things never change.

“It is still a battle between Brighton and Bingham,” Pereira said. The Bengals swept the 5A titles last season and the Miners placed second in the girls competition and ninth in the boys competition.

Pereira added that Alta, which placed fifth in the girls and seventh in the boys last season, “has been impacted by the split with Corner Canyon opening.” In their first season of competition, the Chargers will work to use that to their advantage in 4A.

With regard to individual performances, the girls side is saturated with talented swimmers.

“Probably the No. 1 kid,” Pereira said, “the one who has really risen up so far is probably Hailey Pabst.”

Pabst is a multi-talented senior from Mountain Crest who has committed to swim at the University of Utah next year. She is already a 4A record-holder in the 200-yard freestyle (1:51.33) and 500 free (5:02.96), both of which she set her sophomore year. She is also a defending state champion in the 50 free (23:74) and 100 Free (52.80).

Along with Pabst are Amelia Wolfgram, a senior from West, and Lillian Moore, a senior from Skyline. Both have won individual titles, set classification records, and have committed to continuing swimming at BYU.

Amelia Draney, a Desert Hills senior, will once again be a strong part of the Thunder success this season. She has already set 3A records and won multiple individual races. Draney has also committed to swim at Boise State University.

In the boys competition, Connor Anderson of Springville has so far stood out above the rest.

“The boys haven’t really shown what they can do yet,” Pereira said. “There is talent, but they are not nearly as talented as the girls.”

At state last season, Anderson, a junior, placed second in the 200 free (1:41.59) and first in the 500 free (4:37.11). He was also the anchor leg of the second-place 200-free relay team, in which the team finished with a time of 1:28.97, and third in the 400-free relay (3:15.15).

Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.

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