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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Park City's Joelle Hess celebrates her win in the 100-yard breaststroke during the 3A state high school swimming championships in Provo on Feb. 15.
We raced the toughest competition we could through the season and, at this meet, we just wanted to come out and do our best — and I think we did OK. I was pretty happy with that. I’m not going to complain. —Park City coach Mike Werner

PROVO — Nearly three years ago, Lizz Dempsey quit swimming.

After 10 years of training, it had taken over her life, and she was burned out.

But her decision started to change when, last summer, she decided to jump back in the pool for the Utah Summer Games.

“I thought it would be cool to do as many sports as I could, so I decided to swim,” said Dempsey, who also competed in track and taekwondo. “I didn’t train much and I ended up setting a record and taking home two golds. I thought, ‘All right, this is kind of fun again. Maybe I’ll go back.’”

Within two weeks, she said, the sport had taken over her life once again. And Saturday, in the second day of competition at the 3A state meet, the Cedar senior capped her return with two medals: sixth place in the 100-yard butterfly and first-place in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Dempsey, who completed the 100 fly in 1:02.83, anchored the relay team and finished the event with a 23.98 split time as she, Kristen Gross, Maddy Hanks and Eliza Hafen posted a total time of 1:41.73.

“Our goal going into it was to get a PR,” Dempsey said, noting her team bettered its qualifying time by 1.03 seconds. “When I got up onto the block, I did not want to lose. I thought, ‘I don’t want to let my whole team down. Three girls just swam their hearts out in front of me.’ I love having that pressure of going last and I did not want to let them down. That’s why I love relays: It takes four people instead of just one.”

In the team competition, Park City's girls dominated the scoring, posting 517 points compared to 280 from second-place Desert Hills.

“We just wanted to have a good time this year and be the best that we could,” said Park City coach Mike Werner. “We raced the toughest competition we could through the season and, at this meet, we just wanted to come out and do our best — and I think we did OK. I was pretty happy with that. I’m not going to complain.”

The Miners’ score was bolstered by first-place finishes from junior Becca Selznick, who won the 100-yard free with a time of 53.86; sophomore Mara Selznick, who won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 59.58 and the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 59.10; freshman Joelle Hess, who won the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:07.06; and the 400-yard free relay team, which posted an 3A record with a time of 3:38.06.

The Park City boys team also took home the first-place trophy, edging Dixie by a score of 305 to 280, prompting Werner to jump into the pool in celebration.

“I tell them, ‘If you want me to go swimmin’, you got to do the winnin,'” said the coach. “I don’t touch the water unless they win. It’s something they’ve got to earn; it’s a rite of passage.”

Park City sophomore Jinwon Bailar, who was named the 3A boys swimmer of the year, was a spark for the Miners with a first-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke (53.21) and was part of the second-place 400-yard free relay team (3:25.96).

Meanwhile, the Park City boys team received contributions from every possible option.

“At the beginning of the season I talked to the boys and said, ‘Hey, we only have a couple, but you guys have a legitimate shot to do something here,’” Werner said. “’You will be the surprise of 3A. You just have to decide what you want to do, what you’re willing to go through to get it.’ And they came to this meet and every single boy scored points, moved up, and swam out of their heads.”

Desert Hills senior Amelia Draney was named the 3A girls swimmer of the year. She finished the meet Saturday with a top finish in the 500-yard free and was part of a second-place finish in the 400-yard free relay.

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.