August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Viewmont's Melissa Manser is one of the top butterfly swimmers in the state and leads the Vikings into the upcoming season.

Because of chronic back problems that have worsened in the last year, Viewmont junior Melissa Manser has been forced to spend a lot of time watching others do what she wishes could be doing — swimming in a pool.

The defending 5A champ in the 100-yard fly hasn't been able to train nearly as much as she has needed to or wanted to this fall because of her back.

Manser doesn't think like your average high-schooler, however. Rather than sit around and bemoan the fact that she's losing valuable practice time, she has instead remained about positive and upbeat about the situation.

And on days when she can't get into the pool, Manser has become a de facto assistant coach.

Once the 5A state championship meet rolls around next February, Manser — back problems not withstanding — will nonetheless lead the way for Viewmont High. However, her willingness to teach and remain positive through her back problems has been impressive, according to coach Scott Balling.

"She's a real example to the team," he said. "She'll do whatever she can to help out with the team."

Unlike last year, in which the Vikings held practices all the way down at Rose Park because their brand-new facility, the South Davis Recreation Center, didn't finish on time, Viewmont has swelling numbers this fall.

As painful as last season was for the Vikings — Viewmont finished with just 23 swimmers — they love their new facility, which is located right next to Viewmont High.

Currently, Viewmont's program has 60 swimmers, and only 18 of them are juniors or seniors. That's where Manser's coaching comes in. When her back problems have forced her to remain on the pool deck, she's been right there to help coach.

"I try to help teach the beginning swimmers how to swim," she said. "Motivation is my job."

To date, Manser said that doctors haven't figured out what is wrong with her back. Three years ago she hyper-extended it in a knee-boarding accident, and it's bothered ever since.

Manser quickly pointed out that her back problems are not ruining her life — "It's just an obstacle," she said — but the ailments have clearly been an unwanted problem.

"They thought for a long time that it was a degenerative disc, and then they thought I fractured my back," said Manser. "I've done CT scans, blood tests and X-rays, and they're not sure. And all the overuse makes it worse — all the jarring and stuff."

The back problems may have put her on the put her on the pool deck for now, but don't think that she isn't still planning to expand on her high school swim career.

As a freshman, Manser announced her arrival on the swimming stage with two solid individual finishes.

As a sophomore, she cemented her status as one of the state's elite swimmers winning a state title in the 100 fly and finishing second in the 200 IM.

Now a junior, Manser hopes to better her fly time of a year ago and aims to excel in her other event, whether that's in the 200 IM or the 100 back.

For Manser, she just can't wait to race, back problems and all.

"Yeah, I really enjoy the bigger swim meets," she said. "I enjoy the competition. It's really fun for me."

Region 1 girls swimming

(Predicted order of finish)

1. WEBER: The Warriors have a lot of work ahead of themselves to beat out Layton and Viewmont and repeat as Region 1 champions. However, because of their three solid relays and pretty good depth, they are slight favorites. They don't have the kind of depth that will score points at the state meet, but it will make a big difference at the region level. Though Weber lost a lot of seniors to graduation, including University of Utah-bound star Chelsea Reopelle, the Warriors do have a lot of up-and-coming swimmers. Lindsay Williamson, Cassey Tenney and Chloe Cook have currently put themselves in a position to qualify individually for state. 2007 STATE MEET: 8th place.

2. LAYTON: Layton has a legit chance to beat out Weber and Viewmont to the region championship. To get there, however, they must find swimmers to back up sophomore stars Elizabeth Thompson and Mariah McGovern. Both sophomores have top times in a number of events and should score lots of points at state, not to mention at the Region 1 championship meet. McGovern finished fifth in the 100 back at state as a freshman. Two of Layton's relays o the 200 free and 200 medley o are ranked eighth in 5A. 2007 STATE MEET: 10th place.

3. VIEWMONT: Like Layton, the Vikings feature two stars o junior Melissa Manser and senior Briana Moore. Manser, the defending 5A champ in the 100 fly, has a number of excellent times, despite the fact that she's been dealing with some back problems. Moore, meanwhile, is ranked second in the 100 breast and sixth in the 200 IM.

2007 STATE MEET: 6th place.

4. NORTHRIDGE: Senior Amy Gray, the defending region champ in the 100 fly, will anchor the Knights. She is currently ranked No. 9 in the 100 breast. In addition to her, much is expected of junior Taylor Thompson, who has qualifying times in the 100 breast and 100 fly. To compete with the top teams in Region 1, Northridge must develop some freestyle swimmers. 2007 STATE MEET: 13th place.

5. DAVIS: The Darts will aim to expand on a sixth-place finish at last year's Region 1 meet. To date, both Davis freestyle relay teams have shown that they will have a chance to qualify for the state meet. Both are ranked 18th. Individually, senior distance swimmer Caitlin Payne leads the charge of individual swimmers who hope to make it to state individually. 2007 STATE MEET: Did not place.

6. FREMONT: Senior Melinda Barnes, ranked 35th in the 50 freestyle, needs to climb 11 spots to be in a position to qualify for state. Barnes is currently the top-ranked individual for the Silver Wolves. A year ago, Fremont finished in last place at the region meet but could finish ahead of two teams this year. 2007 STATE MEET: Did not place.

7. SYRACUSE: Of course, Syracuse High is in its first year of existence. Like its other sports teams, Syracuse's swim program is attempting to build with really young athletes. Junior Chianne Thomas will aim to make it to the 5A meet via the 100 breast. 2007 STATE MEET: N/A.

8. CLEARFIELD: Simply put, the Falcons have struggled mightily to this point. Two of their three relay teams are ranked last in 5A. Getting anyone to state would be huge accomplishment for Clearfield. 2007 STATE MEET: Did not place.

Region 1 boys swimming

(Predicted order of finish)

1. NORTHRIDGE: Whether the Knights can finish here remains to be seen, but it appears they have the tools to do so. Senior star Nieko Bird (200 IM and 100 back) leads the way. He has registered some impressive performances in previous state meets but has never claimed an individual state title. That's a big goal for him this year. "I'd like to get a first at state," he said. "That's always a goal, but I've never got it yet. So this year I want it." Aside from him, expect a lot from Carson Tueller and Spencer Bird. 2007 STATE MEET: 12th place.

2. VIEWMONT: Senior sprinter Bubba Powers has been a major surprise so far. Last year, he finished 17th in the 50 free at state. However, he's currently ranked third in the event this fall. Also, he's ranked fourth in the 100 free. Joseph Nelson has registered respectable times. Viewmont's swimmers almost always swim well at state. 2007 STATE MEET: 8th place.

3. WEBER: The defending region champs face a huge struggle to retain their trophy. Simply put, it doesn't look like they have enough horses to keep Northridge or Viewmont from the trophy, which is a big deal in Northern Utah. Tyler Condie has shown promise in several freestyle events, and Weber has pretty good relay teams. 2007 STATE MEET: 15th place.

4. LAYTON: Sophomore Matt Krambule is the defending region champ in the 500 free and could become one of the elite swimmers in the state if he continues to improve. He has numerous top times, including a fifth-place ranking in the 100 fly and ninth-place ranking in the 500 free. To be successful as a team, though, the Lancers need to find some bodies that can back him up. 2007 STATE MEET: 10th place.

5. FREMONT: If the state meet was held today, two of Fremont's relay teams would qualify (200 free and 400 free). Jake Johnson, Austin Crezee and Jake Anderson are members of both of those relays, and they each have individual aspirations. To varying degrees, each has a chance to make it to state. 2007 STATE MEET: Did not place.

6. DAVIS: Senior Zach Anderson is ranked 36th in the 100 breast and could qualify for state if things fall his way. The Darts netted a 16th-place finish at last year's 5A meet, which was a decent accomplishment. 2007 STATE MEET: 16th place.

7. SYRACUSE: If Syracuse is going to send any representatives to this year's 5A meet, it will likely come from a relay team. The Titans' 400 free and 200 free relay teams have legit chances to qualify. They are ranked 16th and 17th, respectively. Paul Crowley, Michael Bartle and Branson Worthen will play big roles on those relays. 2007 STATE MEET: N/A.

8. CLEARFIELD: A year ago, Clearfield's 200 free relay team finished in sixth place and garnered 26 points, which paced the Falcons to a 14th-place finish overall. Three of the four relay members graduated, but Dusty Jones is back for his senior season. He qualified for the 50 free last year and will aim to get to state in that event again. 2007 STATE MEET: 14th place.