PROVO Last summer, West Jordan swim coach Kevin Fletcher was inspired by the film "300," which depicts the sheer courage and fighting spirit shown by 300 Spartans as they fought against a massive Persian army.
Heading into the 2008 5A state meet this weekend at BYU, his Jags knew they would have fewer swimmers (nine) than seven-time defending champ Skyline and fellow challenger Brighton, and that many would regard them as an underdog.
On top of that, everybody figured beforehand that it would take 300 points from West Jordan, Brighton or Skyline to emerge with the state-championship trophy.
Well, West Jordan won the race to 300 points, and had just enough in its tank to win the big prize.
The Jaguars set a state record in the 200 free relay, got individual wins from Josh Loomis (100 fly) and star Jordan Fletcher (100 back) and had fast swims from all nine of their state team members Saturday to beat second-place finisher Brighton, 308-285. Skyline, which was disqualified in the 200 free relay, wound up in third with 250 points.
"It's unbelievable," said West Jordan junior Alex Casalino, who finished eighth in the 100 breast.
On the girls side, Skyline convincingly won its seventh 5A title in a row by beating second-place Brighton, 409.5-312.
Despite a bad break Friday, Skyline's boys team came roaring back Saturday to give West Jordan and Brighton everything they could handle.
In the second-to-last event, however, Casalino stepped up in the 100 breast, set a personal record by almost three seconds, and scored 11 huge, huge points for the Jags.
Those points didn't win it for his team, but they put West Jordan in a position to claim the title as long as it finished the upcoming 400 free relay.
That's what happened, and the Jags emerged with their first swim title in school history.
"We kind of left it in the pool," said Fletcher. "It was a heck of an effort."
The same can be said of Skyline.
Skyline's boys team might've walked away from the 5A state meet without a championship trophy for the first time in eight years, but the Eagles left little doubt about which high school remains the king of swimming in Utah.
After being disqualified in the 200 medley relay to begin the 5A meet Friday, the Eagle boys delivered a gutsy performance to rival anything their seven championship-winning predecessors accomplished.
After fighting throughout Saturday, the Eagles netted a win in the day's final race, the 400 free relay, which would've put them in position to beat Brighton for second. However, after conferencing for approximately 30 minutes, the meet referee decided to disqualify Skyline for making a late order change.
"I circled the wrong name. I made the mistake," said Skyline coach Joe Pereira, who added he won't pursue any sort of protest.
Pereira, however, was extremely proud of what his swimmers accomplished.
"If anybody had sat up (in the balcony) any coach or anybody that knew anything about swimming and watched the entire meet ... leaving the whole disqualification stuff out, everybody knows who won," he said. "They know who the champion was."
Individually, Skyline junior Josh Tanner (100 free) won Saturday, as well as Brighton's Cody Reed (500 free) and Alta's Danny Barber (100 breast).
On the girls' side, Lone Peak's Kimberly Welch won a tense battle in the 100 fly, and American Fork's Candice Smith (100 free and 100 back), Brighton's Sierra Phillips (100 breast) and Skyline's Marnie Knoop (500 free) each netted individual wins.Besides Knoop, Skyline's other girls win Saturday came in the 400 free relay. The Eagles, who feature a very young team, swam better and better as the meet progressed.