Just add water and the Desert Vista swim and dive team is ready to go.
The Thunder boys and girls both placed second at the state Class 5A-I state championship meet last season, and while Desert Vista coach Shawn O’Connell is cautious about that success, he doesn’t downplay a chance for another good run this season.
O’Connell’s entire girls team returns and although he lost some key swimmers on the boys side to graduation, they appear to be solid as well.
Junior Katie Olsen, senior Taylor Newgaard, junior Lauren Torres and senior Tinsley Andrews all return from that Thunder girls team from last year.
“We have some very strong swimmers that a coach can rely on at any meet throughout the year,” O’Connell said. “We’re not real sure how we’re going to line them up this year as far as swimming the same events as they did last year, but as far as experience, we have some options.”
Desert Vista’s girls team should be strong in the middle freestyle events like the 100- and 200-yard sprints as well as the more specialized strokes, O’Connell added.
“We’ll have an option in the fly we didn’t have before and the sprinters have really come along nicely so that gives us a balanced attack,” said O’Connell, who has been named the Arizona 5A-I Coach of the Year the last two seasons.
Desert Vista’s boys and girls have long relied on depth and this season is more of the same.
“They key to building a program is having depth and a variety of options with people who can not only win first and second, but third and fourth,” O’Connell said. “That allows us to be more competitive in all events.”
If there was a swimmer to watch on the girls side it would probably be Olsen. She won the 200-yard breastroke last year as a sophomore and was second in the 200-yard individual medley.
“If there was a wish list I think there are some areas we could be a little stronger,” O’Connell added, “We could probably use more depth in the backstroke.”
While the girls team picks up where it left off last season, the boys lost several keys swimmers off the only team in state history to pick up 302 points and yet still finish second. Champion Phoenix Brophy has been a perennial powerhouse.
“We lost some senior leadership that is hard to replace,” O’Connell said. “But we do have swimmers like Ryan Dignan Marc McAndrew, Pat Lombardi and Chris Bergthold.”
The Thunder also have Sean Peaks back on the diving board.
Desert Vista takes a 3-0 record for both girls and boys into the meet against Mountain Pointe Thursday afternoon at the West Chandler aquatic complex.
“This will be a good test, especially for the boys,” O’Connell said, “because Mountain Pointe is stronger than they have been.”
The rivalry adds a little extra to the kick too, he admitted.
“It does mean more than some of our other events because you always want to do well against your cross-town school,” O’Connell said. “It’s not so much for bragging rights as much as you don’t want to lose to the other school.”