MP Swim

McKenna Rafferty swims the 100 butterfly during the swim meet between Mountain Pointe and Highland at the Nozomi Aquatic Center on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

The Olympic year always seems to make the pool a little more crowded at the high school level.

Bigger numbers doesn’t always translate into better talent, but Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe always seem able to produce plenty of state contenders.

And the 2012 season, which began last week, should be no different.

Both programs have enough talent in the pool on both the boys and girls squads to keep their tradition of top 10 finishes, which has become harder with the dwindling of divisions (down to two), in the state meet intact.

The girl squads are coming off the better combined season as Desert Vista was fifth a year ago and Mountain Pointe was 10th.

“We’ve increased depth in all events while adding to a large number of experienced athletes,” said Thunder coach Shawn O’Connell, who is entering his 10th year.

The Thunder girls will be extremely strong in the 50 and 100 free sprints and the 100 fly.

Desert Vista brings back eight competitors with state experience including finalists Emily Ankeney (50 free), Mary Geavaras (50 free/100 breast) and Cecelia Kowalski (200 free/500 free).

Other top contributors will be Bailee Blankemeier (city champ in 200 IM/100 fly), Chyann Croley (200 IM, 100 fly), Sierra Drake (100 fly/100 back), Nicole Melosi (200 IM, 100 back) and Maddie Nichola (100 fly, 100 back).

“We have the talent to repeat as (Tempe) City champs and finish in the top (at state),” O’Connell said.

The Pride have a little more work to make a climb in the final standings, but it helps to start with a returning state champion.

The Pride have a built-in leader with Clara Jenck back after winning the Division I title in the 100 backstroke and finishing third in the 200 freestyle. Joining Jenck as a top returning competitor is McKenna Rafferty, who qualified for state in the 100 free and 100 back.

Newcomers expected to be counted on are Breanna Halvorsen, Alexis Ramirez, Alicia Rotter and Nora Mencinger.

“We are going to have a tough dual meet season, but it will force fast times and good finishes,” Pride coach Steve Mancuso said. “It prepares us for the big invites and state.”

The Mountain Pointe boys had the better finish last season and look to break the top five after taking seventh in 2011.

Ben Fitch is the featured swimmer after he finished third in the 200 and 500 free and he will be backed up by state qualifier Julian Enriquez (200 IM, 100 fly).

To make the state aspirations a reality Mancuso is relying on TJ Rachford, Bryce Burchi and Bryan Bigham to add some depth.

“We need someone to step up in the sprint free(style events),” Mancuso said. “We will be strong in the (individual medleys).”

The Thunder, coming off a 15th place finish at state, has quality talent coming back and O’Connell has liked what he has seen so far.

“Our key athletes have made major improvements in the offseason,” O’Connell said. “We have the strength and size needed to be competitive.”

They will be led by four state qualifiers in Trey Roggenstein (200 IM/100 breast), Cole Miller (100 free, 50 free), Dieter Benz (200 free, 500 free) and Conor Bagnall (200 IM, 100 back).

“We will be strong in the 200 and 500 free and the 200 IM,” O’Connell said. “All the events look strong.”


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

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