By Tori Johnson
Photos by Ari Davis
The Juan Diego Catholic High School swim team walked away with a lot of success at the state meet Feb. 14, with swimmers breaking multiple school records in the process.
Fourteen of the 18 swimmers on the team made it to the state competition—five girls and nine boys. The boys 200-yard relay team of Jordan Hendrickson, Luke Opitz, Woodey Greer and Connor Stolfa finished second and established a new school record. Junior Jaclyn Testone took her turn and scored third in the girls 100-yard backstroke, setting a new school record with a 1:00:27.
The girls 400 freestyle relay team, consisting of Testone, Jamie Espinoza, Hope Feliciano and Jessica Espinoza was able to knock 13.5 seconds off its previous best time. Testone says she is proud of her accomplishment of breaking a school record.
“I feel like my hard work has paid off and having a title makes me feel accomplished,” Testone said.
Swimming coach John Moran said the performances by these girls fired up the boys squad to destroy its seed time by 10.5 seconds and establish a new school record. Freshman Hunter McKenzie is among those looking back with pleasure on a successful season, which also included setting a new school record for the 500-yard freestyle.
Testone felt the state tournament was a good way to finish off the season.
“Since most of the swimmers are older, we wanted to do well,” she said. “After a long season, from September to February, the entire team dropped times and did well. It was a good end to a long season.”
Moran says swimming is an individual sport, and that provides an opportunity for each swimmer to put in the work and enjoy the success that comes as a result.
“It falls to the individual athlete to do what is asked and that is what makes swimming such a great sport,” Moran said. “In swimming you can’t say that you were open but the pass didn’t come. Swimming puts 110 percent of the accountability with each swimmer. What you put into it is what you get out of it, but swimming is very much a grueling sport and in high school in Utah, it is a very long season.”
The team has been in the water since Sept. 8, and Moran says training can require a tough regimen. They dry train in the morning three times a week at Juan Diego, including strength, power, speed training and plyometrics (training by jumping). They also swim Monday through Friday in the afternoons, as well as three hours on Saturday.
Along with training in the water and on land, the swimmers have worked hard to improve personal time management, which Moran says is one of the most important things for the swimmers to learn. It applies to life inside and outside the pool.
“Time isn’t just a calendar and not just a clock,” Moran said. “It is also encompasses energy consumption. Different types of training depletes different energy systems. Improving these energy systems is what brings success. Managing time and energy is the challenge of the sport and of life. Energy needs to be available to study and to be involved in family and in school.”
Because swimming requires time and dedication, the swimmers have to look for encouragement from fellow teammates. Espinoza looks to someone even closer to her than a classmate—her older sister, Jessica.
“I look at my sister,” Espinoza said. “She really helps me to stay motivated and focused.”
McKenzie says he looks to the older swimmers for motivation.
“Kevin Hemmersmeier (a senior swimmer) and Connor Stolfa (swim captain) both encourage me,” McKenzie said. “Kevin is always like, ‘Oh, you got this, come on, keep going.’ Connor doesn’t notice anything, he just works super hard, and you want to work with him.”
Moran says he enjoys coaching the team just as much as the swimmers enjoy swimming.
“I think it is like all the teachers at Juan Diego and the coaching staff here that we kinda have a calling,” Moran said. “This is what we were supposed to do. We want to be involved with young people, we want to try to give them the tools that they need to be successful now and later on.”
Swimming is different than most sports, particularly as it relates to preparation. Swimmers train with a full season in mind instead of looking specifically at the next game.
“We learn different things about our races, and how we are swimming throughout the season and hopefully we perfect that to whatever degree we can,” Moran said.