By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Shane Marshall
It’s always hard to predict the outcome of swimming championships in large part because athletes who excel in tons of events are limited to two individual events at the state meet. The first task is to guess which two each swimmer will choose and which events the team will need those swimmers to take on.
Since we can guess at some of that but not at all, this preview will instead focus on some swimmers and teams on whom you should keep your eye over the three-day event.
So, what will we be talking about at the conclusion of the 2015 state meet?
1. Team domination – It all starts with Brighton in Class 5A, particularly on the boys side, where the Bengals have won six straight state titles heading into this year. The depth that comes from swimmers like juniors Brian O’Neal, Brock Harries and Parker Wiest will be key if Brighton is going to find a way to make it seven in a row.
The Bengal girls’ streak of four consecutive state titles was stopped by Viewmont a year ago, when Brighton finished third. Senior Katy Daggett is strong leader, but it will take a major effort for the team to get past teams like Viewmont, which features the defending state champion in the 100 breaststroke, Mariah Gassaway and her twin sister McKenna.
Led by senior returning 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley champion Katie Smith and Samantha Patterson, last year’s No. 2 Lone Peak will also be a tough matchup.
The Skyline girls team won eight straight 5A titles from 2002 to 2009, and it is now on a three-year run in 4A (2012-2014). It’s hard to argue against a team with that kind of history, but with twins Eva Gontrum and Zoe Phillips leading the way, Highland might have what it takes.
Skyline is also the defending champion on the boys side, having won titles in the even years (2012 and 2014) while watching Mountain Crest take the odd years. The Eagles also won eight straight 5A crowns between 2001 and 2007, so winning is not new for this program. McKay Chamberlain and Adam Shelton will have their work cut out for them as the 4A boys race could get tight.
The Park City girls seems to have pulled away in Class 3A. It helps when you get three sisters who dominate like the Selznick’s do, but this program also features some fantastic freshman to join the veteran core that won state in 2014, the first girls swimming state title for the Miners since 2002.
The Miner boys also won state a year ago, as they have also alternated years atop Class 3A, winning three of the last five. Jinwon Bailar, Vincent Hess and freshman Lucas Hess might have what it takes to break the pattern and get Park City back-to-back titles.
2. Defending titles – A number of swimmers are back to defend individual titles. Assuming they compete in the same events this year as they did last, there is a good chance we see a lot of repeat champions.
In 2A, the girls who are back to defend championships include Kelsey Oliver of Rowland Hall (200 IM and 500 free), Stephanie Abdalla of North Summit (200 free), Grand County’s Alexa Pierce (100 butterfly and 100 backstroke) and Laryssa Guymon of Emery (100 breaststroke).
The 2A boys looking to repeat are Isaac Landau of Rowland Hall (100 breaststroke), Sam Crittendon from North Summit (100 backstroke), Rowland Hall’s Benjamin Wilmore (500 freestyle and 200 IM) and Jacob Brook of Summit Academy (200 free).
The Selznick name comes up often when talking about defending 3A girls champs who are back in the state pool once again. Park City’s Roslyn Selznick is the defending champ in the 200 freestyle, Becca Selznick won the 100 free, while Mara Selznick was a two-event winner (100 butterfly and 100 backstroke). The other returning title winner among 3A girls is also a Miner, Joelle Hess, who won the 100 breaststroke.
Jinwon Bailar of Park City (100 backstroke) headlines the returning 3A boys champions, with the only other swimmer who is back after winning a year ago being Canyon View’s Nathan Wallace (50 freestyle).
Twin sisters Eva Gontrum (500 freestyle) and Zoe Phillips (100 backstroke and 200 IM) of Highland are the returning champions in 4A girls competition. Gontrum finished second in the 200-yard freestyle, a race she won as a two-event champion in 2013. The sisters will both be seeking titles for the third straight year.
Conner Anderson of Springville is back in the 4A freestyle events, and the senior is the defending state champion at distance, in the 500-yard freestyle.
The 5A field features the most significant list of returning champions, and with a strong competition across the board, each of those swimmers will be challenged as they look to repeat.
Autumn Wolfgram of West (200 freestyle), Lone Peak’s Smith (200 IM and 100 butterfly), Abbey Sorensen from Riverton (50 free and 100 backstroke), Claire Jackson of Hunter (100 free), Samantha Patterson from Lone Peak (500 free) and Viewmont’s Mariah Gassaway (100 breaststroke) are all girls who have the chance to repeat.
Among the 5A boys swimmers, Lone Peak’s Parker Freeman (100 breaststroke), Steven Okelberry of American Fork (100 and 200 freestyle) and Westlake’s Jonathan Shawgo (100 butterfly) are the 2014 title winners who will be back looking for more.
3. Newcomers – With all of the returning champions, there hardly seems to be room for new faces around the pool, but there are some freshmen that are making a splash this season. Expect them to be among the contenders on championship weekend.
Among the freshmen to watch are Fane Wolfgram of West and Rhyan White from Herriman in the 5A girls field. Judge Memorial’s Anna Shum, Macey Madsen of Mountain Crest and Maple Mountain’s Makayla Cazier are some of the fabulous 4A freshmen.
Park City has delivered another incredible group of first-year swimmers to add to its already impressive squad. Cole Peterson and Lucas Hess are strong Miner freshmen boys, while Blaire McDowell is a great addition to the Park City girls team. Also in 3A, Bryant Karratti of Desert Hills and Katelyn Gross from Cedar could challenge the more experienced front-runners.