Last year's state swim meet turned out to be a little too exclusive.

With each event being limited to the top 24 qualifiers, the field was pretty much just club swimmers. It took away something from the event, basically regulating the non-club swimmers to the sidelines.

"The coaches realized right away that the new rule (24 qualifiers) didn't give someone who doesn't swim club much of a chance," Mountain boys and girls coach Steve Mancuso said. "A bunch of the coaches went to the (Arizona Interscholastic Association) and tried to get it changed."

The rule lasted a year as it is being expanded to 32 qualifiers for the individual events (relay event stay at 24) for the 2011 season, which got under way last week.

"When we told the kids you could see them get excited because they have a better chance to qualify," Mancuso said. "It extends the season, makes them work that much harder and gives them an attainable goal."

No matter what the rules are Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe are always going to produce quality programs, have individuals chase state titles and make runs at the top five in the team standings.

And 2011 shouldn't be any different.

In the girls side of the pool, Desert Vista is coming off a fourth-place finish and Mountain Pointe sixth at state.

The Thunder lost an extremely talented class to graduation, which included state record holder Katie Olsen, but have plenty of experienced and hungry athletes ready to go.

Leading the way for Desert Vista will be seniors Halle Wilson (sprints, butterfly) and Elise Cole (diver). Other top competitors will be junior Mary Geavaras (sprints) and junior Mickey Melosi (ind. med, backstroke).

"Our goals are to have a winning record, finish in the top five in state and qualifying as many as possible for the state meet," Desert Vista coach Shawn O'Connell said.

It doesn't end there as sophomores Emily Ankeney and Tricia Andrews will help out with sprints and JoJo Badgley in the diving pool.

The Pride bring back three definite leaders who will help Mountain Pointe stay near the top five in Division I.

It starts with junior Clara Jenck, who finished third in the 200 free, third in the 100 backstroke and was on two of the Pride's relay teams.

Mancuso said they weren't sure what events she was going to compete in just yet, but is confident Jenck, who trained in France this summer, will be successful .

Senior Nicole Van Alstine shined mostly on relay teams a year ago, but will get a chance to do so as an individual this year, including in the 100 butterfly. Heather Meyer is a senior captain who should be solid in sprints.

On the boys side of things, Mountain Pointe is coming off a seventh-place finish at state, while the Thunder plan on doing better than the 19th-place finish they had a year ago.

The Pride's top returning performer is senior Connor Engelmann (50 free, 100 breast and relays) as he looks to feed off last year's solid performance at state.

"He is a strong swimmer and a tough competitor," Mancuso said. "He is coming back bigger and stronger this year."

The Pride have three other top competitors in junior Ben Fitch (200 free), senior Filemon Scooler and Julian Enriquez.

"We lost some leaders but this is where our depth helps," Mancuso said. "We are going to need some of those guys to really help us out."

Desert Vista wants to make up for last year's misstep of nearly finishing outside of the top 20.

"We have to build on last year's youth and use our depth," O'Connell said. "We want all our relays to make it back for the state finals and advance as many individuals to the meet's second day."

The Thunder have a senior trio that they should be able to count on to do just that as senior Mark Young (distance free, breast), Nikolas Barkley (ind. Medley/butterfly) and Sean Chester (mid-distance free) look to finish their careers strong.

Desert Vista will also need a talented freshmen class, junior Cole Miller (sprints/back) and sophomore Connor Bagnall (back/ind. medley) to contribute for the team to be successful.

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

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