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Sugar House Journal

State runners-up dive into new season

Dec 06, 2016 16h01 ● By Travis Barton

Highland High School boys swim team celebrates its second place finish at the 4A state championship in February. The new season started with its first meet on Nov. 4. (Cindy Nordstrom/Highland swim team)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

State runners-up in a year ago, the Highland High School swim team is gearing up for what they hope to be another successful year. 

Both men and women’s teams won their first meet of the year at the Steiner Youth Aquatic Club on Nov. 4. Of the 22 events at the Bountiful meet, Highland claimed 17 first-place finishes. 

“The kids swam really well,” said head coach Mark Gray. 

The team will hold around 55 swimmers this year with a plethora of seniors from last year’s team graduated and moved on including star performers Zoe Phillips and Eva Gontrum. The Rams have started strong with a new crop of contributors.

Co-captain and senior Connor Peterson took first place in the 200-yard individual medley (IM), where swimmers perform each stroke—backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke and freestyle—during a race, and the 100-yard backstroke at the meet. 

“Last year we had a lot of fast seniors with really good times and I thought it could dip down this year but so far we’re doing pretty good,” Peterson said. 

Gray said it’s a young team this year. With the team having only swum a few meets, he said they’re focused on improvement. 

“We usually don’t worry about place, if they’re having fun and improve then [the result] takes care of itself,” Gray said. “I just want the kids to improve and get their goals, that’s the key for me is watching them improve.”

That personal betterment is the focus Gray wants the swimmers to have rather than on the swimmers they race against. 

“You can’t control that person over there. Just improve upon yourself, that’s all you can control,” Gray said. 

Refining the swimmers stroke will be a constant focus throughout the year, said Gray, who has coached competitive swimming for more than 30 years. He said he likes to have swimmers practice every stroke in preparation for individual medleys. In doing so, swimmers are more dynamic being able to race all the strokes. 

While every swimmer won’t do the IM, Gray said having them train for each one gives him more choices for his events.  

“That gives you more flexibility. [We can say] hey we need a breaststroker or a backstroker this year, alright you [already] know how to do it,” Gray said. He said sophomore Arden Tesch demonstrates that ability. 

Tesch swam the 200- and 500-yard freestyle last year while this year she’s swimming the IM and backstroke. She won both of the events in their first swim meet to start the season.  

“[Tesch] is goal-oriented, she knows what she wants to try and get. That helps out for everyone, if you’re focused on a goal and are working towards it then it makes it a lot easier to help them get there,” Gray said.  

Peterson, whose been swimming since he was eight, said his goals involved lowering his personal times. Dropping his 100-yard backstroke time to around 55 seconds and his IM time to around two minutes are what he said he hopes to accomplish. 

In a sport where individual races contribute to a team’s overall points total, Gray said the sport has its benefits and negatives to being more singular rather than collective. 

“[In swimming] you’ve got no one to blame but yourself, you’ve got to look in the mirror, it’s in your control, there’s a difference there,” Gray said. “But also you don’t have that person that can carry you when you’re having problems.” 

The Rams hold various activities outside of practice like team movie night, breakfasts and dinners to go along with the constant cheering during races at swim meets. 

“These guys seem to help each other, support each other and cheer each other on at races so that part’s good,” Gray said.