Pushing towards season’s end
The Miners weren’t expecting a runaway win when they welcomed 5A powerhouse Kearns to their pool on Wednesday afternoon. In fact, considering the size of the large Salt Lake school, they weren’t even expecting a win, but when the Park City girls finished just 14 points behind them, 92-78, they were feeling pretty satisfied.
All season long, the girls squad has been able to hang with the bigger schools. It’s a trend that head coach Matt Hayes has been taking note of and it gives him hope for the region and state championships looming on the horizon.
He isn’t sure if his team has what it takes just yet to dethrone the Judge Memorial dynasty that has easily taken the state crown year after year, but he finally thinks they could come close. In fact, he says, for the Miners to even take second by less than 100 points at the state meet would be a major coup.
"Looking at our depth, I think we are swimming very well," Hayes said. "I think we are going to get much closer than ever before."
In order to pull it off, though, Hayes needs the total commitment of his team. Timing is an issue. Just a day after an excellent showing against a tough team like Kearns, the girls begin their holiday break and the Utah High School Activities Association sets a moratorium on coach-run practices, leaving it up the team captains to hold unofficial practices and individuals to swim on their own. It’s better than nothing, but Hayes hates to lose focus right now. The team has two more meets before the end of regular season and the Miners need to keep swimming their best to be ready for the end of the year.
Many on the team have already qualified in their respective events at the state meet, and others haven’t. The trick now, is to keep the qualified, motivated, and the unqualified working hard to drop their times in the remaining meets.
One swimmer that was more than motivated for the Kearns event was Park City’s Samantha Case. Wednesday was her opportunity to test her skills against the state’s best sprinter, Natalie Edge. Unfortunately, the two were placed in different individual events, but Case got her chance in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Both girls swam the anchor leg of the race. Edge was able to make up two body lengths to win the race for Kearns with a split time of 51.8 seconds, three seconds faster than Case’s average 55-second split time.
"She’s on course to break the state record," said an amazed Hayes.
The boys finished behind Kearns 105-65. Hayes says that Park City boys swam well, but could not match the 5A school’s depth. Still, he said that he is continually impressed by the constant improvement of the younger swimmers, which is helping the team slowly become deeper.
For the final two meets against Pleasant Grove and Ogden, the Miners need to remain focused. Some swimmers need to qualify for events at State, while those that are already qualified should use the meets to refine their stroke work before they go up against some of Utah’s best. Hayes simplifies it by saying that the time to concentrate on reaching goals is right now. Even with State more than a month away, the team’s resting period will start after the region meet two weeks prior, so the time to work hard is in the next few weeks.
The Miners host Pleasant Grove on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 3 p.m. at the Ecker Hill Aquatic Center.
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