In the first Class 6A state swimming meet Thursday and Friday at the South Davis Recreation Center in Bountiful, American Fork and Lone Peak left no doubt about who would be the top teams in the new division.
The Cavemen held off the Knights to win the girls competition (338.5 points to 297 for Lone Peak) and the Knights routed all challengers on the boys side, defeating second-place Pleasant Grove, 428.5 to 279.
“It’s definitely been a fun run this year,” Lone Peak head coach Celeste Tiffany said. “Both our men’s and women’s teams excelled all year. Last year it was exciting to win a 5A state title and this year (in 6A) was just as exciting. It’s been a great opportunity in 6A because it’s allowed a lot more kids chances to win.”
Utah Valley swimmers won 15 of the 22 events and often placed multiple athletes on the podium. The Knights won 11 of those top spots including winning five of the six relay races.
“The men and women came in today ready to race,” Tiffany said. “Regardless of the result, I couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
The American Fork girls team only ended up with one individual champion -- freshman Allie Hill won the 500-yard freestyle -- but the Cavemen depth proved to be insurmountable.
“We talk about athletics being a certain percent physical and a certain percent mental, but we are convinced at least 80 percent is mental,” American Fork head coach Kathy King said. “The girls decided that they could control some things and not worry about other stuff. When we focus on what we need to do, the outcome is going to take care of itself and it did. It was awesome.”
That effort put King in position to enjoy one of the greatest traditions in all of Utah high school athletics: Having the head coach be tossed into the pool by her title-winning team.
“These girls have been asking us for a few weeks if they won, if we would let them push us into the pool,” King said. “We were like, 'Yeah!' It was so fun.”
Hill said she was delighted to get first in the longest race of the meet, going up against a lot of upperclassmen. She actually trailed by as much as two lengths early on before passing three other swimmers on her way to victory.
“I usually try to go faster at the end,” Hill said. “I’ve been doing the 500 for awhile and I know how to pace it. I wanted to get those points for my team.”
With so much relay success, Lone Peak had a number of athletes who won multiple medals.
One of them was Knight senior Taylor McAleavey, who got first in the 200 and 400 relays as well as winning the 100-yard freestyle.
She called it “surreal” knowing this was her final time competing in high school.
“I’m very pleased with how it went,” she said. “I gave it everything I had. I looked over and saw my coaches and teammates cheering, then saw my family in the front row. My aunt and grandma waited in line for hours to get a good spot. It meant so much to me.”
Family also made the meet important to Tiffany.
Her sophomore son Jordan won two individual events (the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley) and also was part of the winning medley relay and 200-yard relay teams. Her senior son Braden won two relay golds and was second to Jordan in the 200-yard IM.
“It’s a bittersweet moment for me,” Celeste Tiffany said. “I’ve spent years in swimming with them and it’s an incredible experience. It’s great to send my senior off with great wins with incredible teammates.”
Other Utah Valley athletes also had excellent showings, particularly Pleasant Grove junior Devin Bunnell. He won both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races and was named Boys Swimmer of the Meet, but he’s looking forward to getting even better.
“Swimming is a big deal to me,” Bunnell said. “There is always more you can do. I’m excited for my senior year.”
The other local champions were Lone Peak sophomore Summer Shreeve (girls 100-yard butterfly), Knight senior Josh Ries (boys 100-yard backstroke), Lone Peak senior Kenzie Chesler (girls 100-yard backstroke) and Westlake senior Denton Anderson (100-yard breaststroke).
Complete results can be found at UHSAA.org.