The Desert Vista boys and girls swim team wrapped up a nerve-wrecking 2020 season in impressive fashion Friday at the state championship meet held at Skyline Aquatic Center.
The boys placed second overall with 285 points behind state-champion Chaparral’s 302. The girls, meanwhile, placed fifth with 139 points.
“It was a great way to finish an odd year,” Desert Vista swim coach Shawn O’Connell said. “We are very fortunate to have been at the state meet. Back in August, we weren’t sure the season would even make it this far and being there was so surreal.”
Desert Vista’s boys were led by strong performances from Jack Luken, who clinched Desert Vista’s second-ever boys individual state championship in the 500-yard freestyle with a school-record time of 4 minutes, 34.05 seconds. Luken also finished third overall in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:42.10 – a lifetime best.
The Thunder also received contributions from Max Nielsen, one of the few seniors on the team. He bounced back from a sixth-place finish in 50-yard freestyle to place second in the 100 freestyle and helped the Thunder place first overall in the 200-yard freestyle relay along with Caleb Stanley, Evan Bushko and Luken.
Desert Vista’s championship win in the 200-yard freestyle relay was the first win in that event in program history. A short time later, the Thunder picked up their second-ever relay win in the 400 freestyle. Tres Mungia swam anchor in the 400 to help the Thunder clinch the title in that event. He also medaled in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke. Ryne Davenport also swam a lifetime best 100-yard backstroke in Desert Vista’s last relay.
“We have so few swimmers, that’s the thing, everyone swam well,” O’Connell said. “We started a little slow but after the first break they all swam lights out.”
After the boys wrapped up their championship meet in the morning, the girls took to the pool deck in the afternoon.
The Thunder scored in every event for the girls championship, with freshman Clare Luken showing promise despite her young age. O’Connell also praised Katherine Chelus and Kenzie Miller for their performances in both individual and relay events.
Desert Vista’s girls differ from the boys in terms of veteran experience in the pool. O’Connell said the boys are made up of primarily sophomores while the girls are blended across all age groups. The leadership from senior Shelby Nicolaisen is something O’Connell said he will miss the most on the girls’ side but realizes both teams have bright futures ahead with talented swimmers.
“We are going to really be missing Shelby in the future,” O’Connell said. “The girls’ team is really balanced. They aren’t as young as the boys but they’re definitely experienced.
Navigating through a difficult season where on any given day the team could get shut down took a toll on O’Connell and first-year girls dive coach Joe Cyr. The two said they constantly had to enforce social distancing in practices and often times early on resorted to virtual sessions.
While Desert Vista’s dive team didn’t place at the state meet, Cyr said he was proud of their resiliency to not only get through a difficult season but to do it with pride for their school.
“The entire season we were very nervous we wouldn’t be able to finish,” Cyr said. “We just stuck to the rules and it all worked out in the end. I think they showed a lot of resilience.”