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Castle Dome wins Middle School Swimming Championships
Marcus Pool was full of swimmers from Gila Vista for the Second Annual Middle School Swimming Championships on Saturday.
Castle Dome brought a handful of its own and St. Francis had four talented young swimmers.
But AmeriSchools had only one representative for the middle school championship meet — sixth-grader Ira Evans.
“It's true that if you're the only one at your school into a sport, you have to lead by example. It could be intimidating, but he's a young man that can do it. He works hard in practice and he just has a positive confidence,” Yuma Heat coach and head of Yuma Aquatics Martin Reichgott said of Evans.
“I'm pretty much the only representative from that school. It's exciting, I was in the school newsletter and all the teachers noticed me,” said Evans, who earned nine points to help give AmeriSchools an eighth place finish.
In the 100 yard individual medley, Evans lined up with swimmers two years older than him and turned out his best race of the meet.
“Because all the people I was against were eighth graders, and I think I did good because all the eighth graders were all super fast and swim for Yuma Heat, so I was a little intimidated. For me, that's pretty good to get that good of a time with eighth graders,” said Evans, who recently joined the Yuma Heat.
“He just swims his own race and he's in charge of what he does and Ira is very good at that — at personal goals, whatever follows, follows,” Reichgott said.
Castle Dome ended up winning the meet with a total of 204 points. Gila Vista, the champions last year, finished in second place with 194. St. Francis, represented by Frankie Rascon, Ven Chavez, Jacob Cardenas and Michael Nicholls, finished in third place with 73. According to Reichgott, the meet — which featured 60 swimmers from nine schools — was an overwhelming success.
“Definitely with the turnout. More kids than last year,” he said. “Really what was most impressive, some of the parents were talking about this, the kids were cheering for one another. Not just their own schools but just for swimming.”
Several swimmers ended up improving their times, including Gila Vista eighth grader Joshua Dewhurst. Entering the day with a top time of 58 seconds in the 100 freestyle, when Dewhurst finally touched the wall at the end of his race, his father Geoff yelled out, “54!” — letting his son know he just cut several seconds off his time with his 54.95 finish.
“I guess it felt like I was going fast. It looked like my training paid off, because I wasn't going out trying to knock four seconds off,” said Joshua Dewhurst. Sydney Tunnell won both her events for Castle Dome, taking the 50 butterfly (32.38) and the 50 backstroke (34.25). Cardenas also won two events, taking the 100 IM (1:11.46) and 50 butterfly (33.41) for St. Francis.
Yuma Lutheran seventh grader Emma Fitzgerald also gave her school a boost in the 100 freestyle, 100 IM and a pair of relays. Fitzgerald's finishes helped Yuma Lutheran land the fourth place plaque with 65 points.
“I feel like I'm racing for (Yuma Lutheran) because I raced in it last year and we brought back a plaque for our school,” said Fitzgerald, who finished first in the 100 freestyle.
Since the middle schools in Yuma don't have organized swim programs, Saturday was a chance for the swimmers to compete on the behalf of their schools — which many considered a nice change.
“To me, it feels like I'm swimming for my school, and when I come back they'll be proud,” said seventh grader Jesse Russell-Cheung, who won the 50 breaststroke for the second year in the row to help Crane score 61 points for a fifth place finish.
But something that Reichgott noticed was the meet wasn't just full of swimmers from the Yuma Heat or Yuma Sandsharks. The diversity of swimmers made Reichgott feel that swimming can continue to grow in Yuma — especially with the younger swimmers.
“What we're really excited about is there were all kinds of backgrounds,” he said. “Fewer than half of the kids swim for the Yuma Heat. Some swim for the Sandsharks. There are kids who came out of the aquatic program. There were friends from school who were grabbed and I'm told they were promised pizza. So that's amazing to have the courage as a middle schooler to have the courage to come out.”