I'm excited to continue forward; once you achieve something, you want to keep achieving more —Amelia Draney
PROVO — Hearing an excited Matt Finnigan — Judge Memorial swimming coach — describe how his team's level of joy is the most important thing to him leaves no doubt he's telling the truth.
The sentiment that "the bottom line is that we just want to have fun" has been uttered countless times by coaches, many times coming across as disingenuous at best. But when Finnigan says it, the cliché becomes absolute gospel.
So when a look at the girls standings after Day 1 of the 3A Utah High School State Championships at BYU reveals the Bulldogs on top, it's obvious that having a good time participating is equally — or even more vitally — important as winning.
"We don't get too excited and we don't get too low," Finnigan said after his team took a commanding lead after four events. The Bulldogs totaled 133.5 points, surging ahead of second-place Desert Hills (95 points).
The Judge 200-yard medley relay team claimed the victory in the day's first final, while teammates Allison Witte and Kaley Banyai took third and fourth, respectively, in the 200-yard individual medley later on.
Desert Hills sophomore Amelia Draney set a 3A state record in the 200-yard freestyle, a performance she said will motivate her to keep setting new highs.
"I'm excited to continue forward; once you achieve something, you want to keep achieving more," Draney said.
Aspen Johnson, a junior from Waterford, took first in the 200-yard individual medley, while Juan Diego senior Kelsey Leeson triumphed in the 50-yard freestyle.
In that same event, Uintah coach Rich Buelte watched his daughter Natalie tie for fourth place, a result that could have easily never occurred after a disappointing performance in last year's meet.
"She was dead last in the backstroke, but she fought back this year and qualified for four events," coach Buelte said.
Even with his team dominating the field entering today's wrapup of the meet, Finnigan de-emphasizes that aspect of the competition.
"We really don't pay a lot of attention to that," he said. "It's just good to see our young kids having fun."
After Judge and Desert Hills, Juan Diego sits in third with 78 points, followed by Snow Canyon and Park City, both with 73 points.
3A Girls Results
1. Judge Memorial Catholic, 133.5; 2. Desert Hills, 95; 3. Juan Diego Catholic, 78; 4. (tie) Snow Canyon, Park City, 73; 6. Wasatch, 69; 7. Tooele, 46; 8. Richfield, 24; 9. Cedar City, 22; 10. (tie) Waterford, Ogden, Pine View, 21; 13. Uintah, 20.5; 14. Rowland Hall St. Marks, 18; 15. Hurricane, 16; 16. Emery, 13; 17. Intermountain Christian, 12; 18. Spanish Fork, 10; 19. Canyon View, 6; 20. Bear River, 3.
200-yard medley relay – 1. Judge Memorial, 1:53.42; 2. Snow Canyon, 1:54.65; 3. Desert Hills, 1:54.83; 4. Wasatch, 1:58.47; 5. Park City, 2:03.63; 6. Tooele, 2:04.18.
200-yard freestyle – 1. Amelia Draney, Desert Hills, 1:52.29*; 2. Natalie McDonald, Park City, 1:59.26; 3. Alaina Finley, Juan Diego, 2:01.94; 4. Leah Heger, Snow Canyon, 2:02.94; 5. Kaylee LeBaron, Hurricane, 2:03.78; 6. Bailey Burke, Park City, 2:03.89.
200-yard individual medley – 1. Aspen Johnson, Waterford, 2:15.84; 2. Courtney Freed, Desert Hills, 2:17.42; 3. Allison Witte, Judge Memorial, 2:17.58; 4. Kaley Banyai, Judge Memorial, 2:19.62; 5. Tessa Trimble, Desert Hills, 2:23.49; 6. Erin Testone, Juan Diego, 2:23.55.
50-yard freestyle – 1. Kelsey Leeson, Juan Diego, 24.10; 2. McKenzie Barber, Snow Canyon, 25.01; 3. Shayn Beckstrand, Pine View 25.46; 4. (tie) Marisa Bush, Judge Memorial, Natalie Buelte, Uintah, 26.27; 6. Jodi Pham, Ogden, 26.35.
* Denotes state record