Heber City • There are times when small-town athletes must overcome long distances and sacrifices to excel in high school sports.
Take for example Beaver swimmer Rachel McMaster, who won the 200-yard freestyle state title and took second in the 50 freestyle at Thursday’s Class 3A state swimming championships at the Wasatch Aquatic Center.
McMaster was one of many compelling stories at the small-school swim meet that saw Rowland Hall win its first girls’ state title and Emery capture its third boys’ championship before a standing-room only crowd.
McMaster is the only member of Beaver’s swim team. Because the town’s tiny pool is closed in the winter, she drives 90 miles roundtrip daily to train with a club team in Cedar City.
“I started swimming in Alaska,” the junior swimmer said. “We moved to Japan, and I was on a team there. Then we moved to Salt Lake, and I was on a team there. I wasn’t going to stop swimming because I love it.”
McMaster, who won the 100 freestyle last year, said her father is a teacher at Beaver after serving in the Air Force. She expects the family to stay in her new hometown for a while.
There were a number of new faces and schools that have added swim teams competing in the meet.
For example, Maeser Prep’s Tony Puertas won only the second and third first-place swim medals in the school’s history by setting a pool record of 1 minute, 54.58 seconds in the 200 individual medley, the 11th fastest time in Utah history. He followed that with another pool record and eighth-fastest Utah time in the 100 butterfly.
“We have a new team,” said Puertas, who won the school’s first individual title last year and was named boys’ swimmer of the year. “I was definitely happy with that time. It was a personal best.”
Puertas said swimming in Heber City was challenging because of the higher altitude.
Millard’s Drew Roper, who celebrated her 17th birthday with titles in the 100 breaststroke and 100 freestyle and by winning girls’ swimmer of the year, also was symbolic of a new guard in small-town swimming program.
She was part of a tiny group of Millard swimmers who made the 30-mile one-way drive from Fillmore to swim at rival Delta as a freshman. She said the sport grew in interest to the point where Millard hired a coach and got time in Fillmore’s pool to train.
The result was a feel-good story where the Eagles have become one of the more competitive teams in an interesting classification that features teams from rural towns such as Castle Dale, Moab and Fillmore competing against smaller private schools from the Salt Lake area such as Judge Memorial and Rowland Hall.
Grantsville, which saw Savannah Thomas and Hadlee Begay both win two individual titles, is another up-and-coming program that doesn’t have a home pool. Grantsville trains at the Tooele pool.
The Rowland Hall girls used good depth to claim the school’s first girls’ state swimming title. Sophomore Ella Vitek was the only individual winner, taking first in the 50 freestyle.
“I knew my girls were good, but I didn’t realize they were going to perform that good,” Rowland Hall coach Amelia Wolfgramm said. “I knew it was going to be a tight race. …No words. Don’t know if I can adequately say how I feel right now.”
Carbon, whose coach Tamara Davis won the classification’s coach of the year honors, finished second, while the Emery girls took third.
On the boys side, Emery won its third title. Coach Andrea Johansen said depth was the key to the win.
“It was a whole team that did it instead of a couple of few,” she said.
North Summit and Judge finished second and third in the boys’ team standings. South Summit’s Mike Ruf was coach of the year.
CLASS 3A STATE CHAMPIONS
Team standings • 1. Rowland Hall 279; 2. Carbon 257; 3. Emery 225; 4. Judge Memorial 213; 5. North Summit 179; 6. Richfield 177; 7. Grantsville 146; 8. Morgan 90; 9. Grand County 87; 10. Summit Academy 86; 11. Millard 82; 12. American Leadership 74; 13. South Summit 68; 14. Maeser Prep 57; 15. Wasatch Academy 52; 16. Beaver 37; 17. St. Joseph 19; 18. North Sanpete 12; 19. Union 10; 20. Gunnison Valley 8; 21. Delta 4.
200 medley relay • Emery 2:03.31
200 freestyle • Rachel McMaster, Beaver, 2:02.76
200 individual medley • Savannah Thomas, Grantsville, 2:16.84
50 freestyle • Ella Vitek, Rowland Hall, 25.76
100 butterfly • Hadlee Begay, Grantsville, 59.59
100 freestyle • Drew Roper, Millard, 55.13
500 freestyle • Hadlee Begay, Grantsville, 5:18.85
200 freestyle relay • Rowland Hall, 1:46.86
100 backstroke • Drew Roper, Millard, 59.49
100 breaststroke • Savannah Thomas, Grantsville, 1:09.30
400 freestyle relay • Rowland Hall, 3:54.79
Team standings • 1. Emery 242; 2. North Summit 187; 3. Judge Memorial 171.5; 4. Grantsville 171; 5. Grand County 169; 6. Millard 166; 7. Carbon 121; 8. Summit Academy 116; 9. Wasatch Academy 115.5; 10. Rowland Hall 112; 11. Union 107; t-12. Richfield 101; t-12. South Summit 101; 14. Delta 97; 15. Maeser Prep 78; 16. Morgan 59; 17. American Leadership 31; 18. North Sanpete 10; 19. South Sevier 7; 20. Gunnison Valley 6.
200 medley relay • North Summit, 1:46.97
200 freestyle • Braxten Pierce, Grand County, 1:49.11
200 individual medley • Tony Puertas, Maeser Prep, 1:54.58
50 freestyle • Keldan Guymon, Emery, 22.67
100 butterfly • Tony Puertas, Maeser Prep, 49.91
100 freestyle • Keldan Guymon, Emery, 50.99
500 freestyle • Braxten Pierce, Grand County, 5:07.40
200 freestyle relay • Emery, 1:34.32
100 backstroke • Johan Boer, Summit Academy, 55.08
100 breaststroke • Thomas Kearns, Judge Memorial, 1:03.64
400 freestyle relay • Emery, 3:32.32