Miners win first swim title in five years
February 5, 2008
All season long, Park City head swimming coach Mike Werner was adamant about his team staying humble and focused. From the first meet, the hype about his talented girls squad and their potential to dethrone the Judge Memorial dynasty for the state championship swirled, but Werner kept his team in check — never once letting himself believe that the Judge Bulldogs would let the state trophy go that easily.
"I didn’t know if we could do it," Werner said. "I just wanted the kids to have fun and swim the best they could."
Looks like he did the right thing.
On Saturday night at Brigham Young University, the Park City girls captured their first state title in five years by a mere five points, 413.5-408.5, over Judge. Logan took third.
"Five points. It was so close," said senior Samantha Case. "It could have gone either way. Anything can happen. They are really great swimmers."
With season-best swims coming left and right from both teams over the two-day event, the Miners actually trailed after Friday’s competition. The Miners made up ground quickly on Saturday. But even going into the last race, the outcome was still up the air as Park City led by just 3 points before the 400-yard freestyle relay. Winning that race and the state title turned out to be not that difficult as the Miners swam in a near dead-heat with the Logan Grizzlies in the race to take second place. Judge finished in third place.
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"It’s not over until it’s over," Werner said. "I was happy they did so well and Logan put up a heck of a fight."
Seniors Samantha Case and Lyndsay Shand finished up their high school careers turning in big performances for the Miners. Samantha Case took the individual state titles in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly.
"Samantha had a really great meet," Werner said. "This is one of the best she’s ever had."
Shand also had a successful meet with second-place finishes in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races. Both women came together with Sara Testa and Katie Bessembinder to win the state title in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
Both girls were careful to point out that the victory was a total team effort.
"It’s all due to the lower swimmers," Shand said. "Sam and I did well, yeah, but we did not move up any places. A lot of girls moved up five and six places."
Going into the meet, it looked as though Judge could beat Park City by as much as 40 points, so Werner was glad that his team took the competition seriously.
"It’s state and anything can happen at state," Werner said.
"Judge and Logan are so fast," Case agreed. "There’s always going to be pressure from those teams."
The Park City team was still in shock about toppling the Bulldog dynasty even an hour after the meet finished.
"It hasn’t set in yet," Shand said. "The fact that it was five points makes it that much more crazy."
Shand said much of the difference between a state championship and a number of near misses in the past few seasons was due to an attitude change. She said that Werner made them realize how well they could do. Werner spent much of the year tweaking his team by putting them in different races and challenging them to swim against the state’s top teams.
"It was the best year ever," Shand said.
Werner’s accomplishments also earned him recognition as 3A Utah Female Coach of the Year. The award is notable as Werner was able to take the Miners to a state championship in his first year of coaching, but the Coalville native says all of the accomplishments of the weekend will take a while to set in.
"I did what I love to do," Werner said. "Right now, I’m just tired. I’ve been yelling so much my head hurts."
The Park City boys swim team also fared well, finishing in fifth place. Briggs Lyman and Griffin Pool both swam well, both turning in top-six performances in a number of individual and relay races.
"Our boys were awesome," Werner said. "Our boys stepped up and swam really well. People didn’t think they would be in the top five. They were huge."
At the end of the meet the Judge team shook hands with Park City, which Shand said made the experience that much sweeter.
"The best part is they were good sports about it," she said. "It made it better when everyone was so happy about it."
Judge still had plenty to celebrate with senior Alex Carter turning in a number of individual state wins. Case, Carter and 3A Female Swimmer of the Meet, Logan’s Erin Pabst, are three state title winners that will be swimming at the Division I college level next year. In fact, Case and Carter will most likely go from rivals to teammates next season, as they are both heavily favoring swimming for Denver University. Werner said that he is excited to see what Case will do at the next level.
"She’s been really, really fun to work with and the best is yet to come," Werner said.