Briana Jurries and Mikala Nelson could have been on opposite sides of the pool.

Jurries lives in the Mountain Pointe boundaries and Nelson calls home within Desert Vista's district lines.

Instead, the Ahwatukee Foothills residents and close friends are driving the Valley Christian swimming program, much to the delight of first-year coach Robin Dears.

"When I took over, I heard how good they were but when they got into the pool and took off it was eye-opening," Dears said. "I knew I had two competitors that we could count on to be the pillars of our programs."

The tandem has been together for years on club - first Rio Salado and now Gold Medal - and cherishes their relationship and how it helps them develop in and out of the pool.

"She is a dear friend and I couldn't imagine swimming without her," Jurries said. "We have been together for a long time."

Nelson, a senior, said the relationship has made her a better competitor.

"Swim takes up so much time with club and high school," she said. "We keep each other going. It is easy to get stressed out when you don't perform the way you want or take a step back, but we keep each other positive and share our tips and concerns."

It must be working because both swimmers are continuing to compete at a high level.

Jurries, a junior, won two state titles in Division II last season after taking the 100 butterfly in 56.37 seconds and the 100 breaststroke in 1 minute and 5.30 seconds.

Her success has continued in 2011 as she won the 200 IM in 2:08.18 and the 100 breast in 1:06.21 at the prestigious Chandler Wolves Invitational recently as Jurries competed against some of the state's best teams and still came out on top.

"It was great to see some of the (Division I) schools and the top programs," Jurries said. "I knew I wanted to place high and to win it was great."

Success isn't something new to Jurries, who recently returned to action after a shoulder injury, as she has competed nationally and will attempt to qualify for the Olympic Trials once the high school season is over.

"I can't wait to see how far I can go," she said. "I want to swim for a long time, and in college. I am excited to see what I can accomplish."

Nelson wasn't as successful at the Chandler meet, but has missed a lot of time because of a back injury that limited her training. She missed three months of training after staying out of the pool and concentrated on physical therapy.

For a swimmer, as much as elite competitors train, not being able to get in the pool is like a workaholic being forced to retire.

It just drives them insane.

"I didn't know what to do with all of my time," she said. "It was rough. Now, I am back to 100 percent physically, but I can't make up for that lost three months."

Nelson is an all-around swimmer that can compete well in just about any event. She finished fourth at DII state in the backstroke (1:01.46) and ninth in the 500 free (5:15.88) last season. At the Chandler Invite, she finished 17th in the 200 free (2:04.70) and ninth in the 100 free (1:00.32).

While she is still fighting her way back from the downtime, Nelson is being pursued by colleges and she is leaning toward going to a smaller Christian college. That decision will come in time, as right now she is focused on getting right before the year ends.

"I have four more weeks of hard training before tapering off," she said. "I have a lot of time to get where I want to be for state and everything else will work itself out."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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