Sometimes the final event of the state swim meet — the 400-yard freestyle relay — decides which team will win the state championship.
For the Lone Peak boys swim team Friday night at the 5A state competition at the Richards Building at BYU, that race was merely a formality since the Knights entered the event with an enormous lead.
But Lone Peak decided to win the relay anyway.
“We didn’t need it to win but we thought it would be awesome if we could sweep all three relays and take the state title,” Knight senior captain Nick Mortenson said. “We did just that and it was awesome.”
Lone Peak capped a phenomenal two days of swimming by besting all challengers in the last relay — winning the race by just over half a second — on its way to its first-ever boys state title in the sport.
“It was sweet,” Knight senior captain Ben Verdejo said. “We are know each other well and we are all really tight. Being able to be a captain was great.”
The Knights entered Friday’s finals with nearly a 50-point advantage and was never challenged on the scoreboard, rolling to a 127.5-point victory over second-place Pleasant Grove (315.5-188).
Lone Peak head coach Sam Blackburn talked about how the relay teams were one of the highlights.
“We knew we had a good shot to win the medley relay and the 400-freestyle relay,” he said. “That 200 freestyle relay we weren’t sure about and they did it. Words can’t describe it. I’m just ecstatic.”
The Knights won three events on Friday, adding victories in the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 100-yard backstroke.
Mortenson and Verdejo swam the third and fourth legs of the 200-yard freestyle relay, while junior Bryant Karratti and freshman Jordan Tiffany got the team started off right.
“I knew he (Brighton junior Jack Binder) was coming on the turn,” Verdejo said. “I saw and I knew he would be right with me so I just lunged at the end.”
That push gave the Knights the win by 0.12 seconds over the Bengals. Tiffany explained that they wanted to send the seniors out right.
“I think the biggest difference tonight was that we wanted to do it for each other,” he said. “We had seniors and we wanted to do it for them.”
The only individual winner was junior Josh Ries, who knocked more than a second off of his time in the 100-yard backstroke and won by nearly three seconds.
“I was really happy with the time,” Ries said. “It wasn’t what I was going for but I’ll work with it. I’ll come back at sectionals and get the time I want.”
It was a much different race than in 2016, when he lost by 0.04 seconds.
“I thought about that every day,” Ries said. “It drove me to work harder at practice every day.”
While Lone Peak didn’t have any other winners, all the swimmers kept piling up points. That gave the Knights the ability to relax.
“We knew going into the last relay that even if we got disqualified, we would pull out the win,” Blackburn said. “The attitude today was a lot different. They came in a little happier, a little more relaxed and they were just ready to swim today.”
Once the final relay was completed, it was time to celebrate with their state title trophy.
“I still have a headache from all the screaming,” Mortenson said. “As a senior, for four years we have been wanting this so badly. We knew if we were going to get it, this was the year so we worked our butts off all year. It means everything.”
Verdejo said his favorite part was the traditional dunking of the coach as the team picked up Blackburn and tossed him into the pool.
“I can’t even describe it,” Blackburn said with a grin. “I’m on cloud nine. They put in the work, they came here and stepped up and they swam fast. I couldn’t be more proud.”
While the Lone Peak boys team finished atop the podium, the Knight girls had the best finish of the Utah Valley teams, coming in fifth overall.
“We all swam our best and gave everything we had,” Knight senior captain Natalie Davis said. “Everyone hit the times they wanted.”
Sky View ended up winning the girls team title while Cottonwood came in second.