Heading into the 2017 swimming and diving season, the Sedona Red Rock High School team was going to be thin on the boys side, graduating almost all of last year’s state qualifiers.
The girls were always going to have depth and talent with the addition of club swimmers.
Out of the blue a new group of mostly senior boys joined, in addition to a couple experienced newcomers, making for what can become a promising season.
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“When you can’t get them for a long time, you want them as a senior because they have the athleticism, which is great,” head coach A. Jay Bronson said. “Because they’re a little bit older they know their body a bit better so just telling them sometimes it just happens.”
They replenish the void left by the class of 2016, but Bronson must now get the new crew up to speed, in the literal sense as well.
He said the boys will be solid in the sprint freestyle events and are a little thinner in the stroke events. Instead of spending time teaching those seniors the strokes and seeing who can win points, the plan will be to get them as fast as possible.
He will let the younger group of boys improve their stroke technique for the future.
“Since a lot of our guys are new the easiest thing is to put them in sprint free,” Bronson said. “Trying to bridge that gap and figuring out how to really build on them would be great, but that also comes with the problem that if we have six, five senior boys, they’re all going to leave at the end of next year, so how much do we make them multi-event swimmers instead of free?”
Freshman and club swimmer Andrew Tate comes into the high school scene off of a summer in which he participated in the Speedo Far Western Long Course Championships in Concord, Calif., one of the top age group competitions. Freshman Cody Brefeld joins the squad, as well.
But one addition to the boys team is an especially unique one — senior Parker Reed.
He is not a newcomer either.
Reed is a transgender boy who until this year was Sarah Reed, a “B” finalist in the 100-yard freestyle at the Arizona Interscholastic Association State Championships last year.
He will wear a girls swimsuit and race on the boys side. At first unsure about participating this season, nervous about outside opinion, the mere sight of teammates did all the convincing.
“I wasn’t planning on swimming this year, I was planning on being the team manager,” Reed said. “But I showed up the first day and saw everyone swimming and realized I really wanted to. I realized not to worry about what other people’s reactions are and do what I enjoy.”
The girls return almost everyone from 2016 while adding a trio of club swimmers in freshmen Jaxon Oles and Dezra Dana, as well as junior Zoe Porteous. They will have depth in all of the strokes, returning two state qualifiers in sprint freestyle in sophomore Soleil Metcalf and junior Eva Holowacz.
The entire 200-yard medley relay team comes back as well as three-fourths of the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.
“Ladies, it looks like we’re going to be pretty good all around. We’ve got a lot of returners and a lot of club swimmers,” Bronson said. “Girls-wise, we’re not senior heavy. We have two seniors so we’re not too concerned about that, it’s more figuring out where do we best position people.”
Bronson said the season is based on two objectives: Win the Heisley/Estes Cup and get season-best times at the small school state championships on Oct. 21.
The Heisley/Estes Cup, formerly known as the Sedona/Mingus Cup, pits the Scorpions against cross-valley rival Mingus Union High School. It took on its new name to honor the founders of both teams: Erin Estes [Sedona Red Rock] and Rick Heisley [Mingus Union].
The Marauders have taken the last two titles, but Bronson is hopeful that this year Red Rock can reclaim it after winning the first four.
Finally, he hopes for his team to finish higher than the 14th and 18th place finishes at state for the girls and boys, respectively, from a year ago. That influx of club swimmers on both sides will be a big factor.
“I really want to see if we can sneak away the Heisley Cup,” Bronson said. “Try and get top seven, top five for both boys and girls at state, because we have the talent that’s going to make it in both relays and individuals.”
Bronson and the Scorpions began practice on Monday, Aug. 14, and have little time to get ready for the first meet of the season, at 4 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 31, at home against Chandler Preparatory Academy and Casteel High School.
He said that until then the veterans will be swimming as many yards as possible to get in shape. The focus for the newcomers will be to learn proper stroke and kick technique, allowing them to build up as the season goes along.
“Getting [the newcomers] to be able to do a 50 free a 100 free in three weeks — that’s going to be our goal for them,” Bronson said. “[The returners] I’m just going to push them until they crack and see where the yolk goes, essentially.”