Chaparral swim, dive sets sights on state championship repeats

Chaparral swimmer Ashley Yancy competes in the breastroke during a dual between between Chaparral and Desert Mountain High Schools Thursday, Aug. 31 at the Cactus Aquatic and Fitness Center. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Chaparral High School has a rich tradition in swimming and looks to continue that legacy into the 2017 season.

The Firebirds are coming off a 2016 season where both the boys and girls teams won the Division II state championship — the third time that’s happened in the school’s history.

The girls team also won its third consecutive state championship and sixth overall while the boys team won its fifth overall title.

With the 2017 season afoot, Chaparral Head Coach Richie Krzyzanowski said the expectations are high for both teams coming off a pair of state championships.

“The expectations are to repeat no matter what,” Coach Krzyzanowski said in an Aug. 29 interview. “Our history is so rich in swimming, we want to keep that going year after year after year.”

Chaparral Head Swimming Coach Richie Krzyzanowski speaks with his swimmers following a dual meet between Chaparral and Desert Mountain High Schools Thursday, Aug. 31 at the Cactus Aquatic and Fitness Center. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Specifically, Coach Krzyzanowski has a lofty goal for the girls side: become ranked among the Top 3 teams in the nation.

The boys side has the task of filling the shoes of swimmer Ryan Hoffer, a four-time state champion in the 50-meter freestyle who graduated last year. Hoffer now swims at the University of California, Berkeley.

Coach Krzyzanowski said a great deal of confidence in the returning swimmers, as well as the new talent joining the squads.

His returning swimmers share that confidence as well.

Senior Cole Rodriguez said the team has a target on its back because of last year’s championship.

“We’re state champions, which feels good but then again, you’ve got something to work up to and to keep your level high,” he said. “It’s exciting and it’s nerve wracking.”

On the girls side, senior Madison Leblanc and fellow captain Kelly Huffer look forward to the new season.

“We’re really looking forward to this year because we have a lot of new kids on the team,” she said. “A lot of young talent, more than we’ve ever had before and we’re also going into our senior year of high school so we’re really excited.”

Along with Leblanc and Huffer, both Rodriguez and Sam Acheson will captain the team and try to help lead both teams back to the state championship.

Coach Krzyzanowski said it’s difficult to single out specific superstars, but he does have a few swimmers in particular he’s excited to see.

For the boys team, Coach Krzyzanowski said he’s expecting good performances from junior Tyler Best, sophomore breaststroke and individual medley swimmer Matthew Leblanc and sophomore distance swimmer Ellis Bohone.

Junior mid-distance swimmer Caymen Fiarkoski and sophomore Chloe Zapata are two Coach Krzyzanowski said he is excited about on the girls team.

A Chaparral swimmer fires off the starting block as his teammate tags the wall during a freestyle relay race during a dual meet between Chaparral and Desert Mountain High Schools Thursday, Aug. 31 at the Cactus Aquatic and Fitness Center.

The fountain of youth

Between the boys and girls teams, the 2017 swim and dive team will feature 23 freshmen and 19 sophomores compared to 12 juniors and eight seniors.

Fifteen of those freshmen and 12 of those sophomores are on the girls team.

Coach Krzyzanowski said his upperclassmen benefit significantly from having so many young, talented swimmers, especially on the girls side.

“Everyday, whatever they do in practices and at these dual meets and invitationals, they’re not only competing against the state, they’re more competing amongst themselves because of how our dynamic is as a whole,” he said.

For the boy’s side, Coach Krzyzanowski said his upcoming sophomore class is one of the school’s best in a long time, complementing an already hard-working freshmen class.

In order to lead those younger swimmers, Coach Krzyzanowski will turn to his four captains to manage the team.

One way Acheson said he plans to do that is to keep the target he believes is on the team’s back for winning state last year out of the minds of the younger swimmers.

“We’re trying to make sure they don’t have any clue that they have a target on their backs or anything like that because we want them to be free-minded and fast going,” he said.

Huffer said her style of leadership will include a plethora of attributes all focused on leading by example and striving to show the younger swimmers she and Madison Leblanc care.

“Hopefully we’ll be a good example in that we train hard, we keep our grades up, we enjoy swimming, we come to practice, we’re good role models, have good characteristics and we’re going to try to be nice and outgoing to all of them,” she said.

Swimmers from Chaparral and Desert Mountain High Schools take off in the backstroke during a dual meet between the two schools Thursday, Aug. 31 at the Cactus Aquatic and Fitness Center. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Preparing for the season

A number of swimmers at Chaparral also compete in club swimming.

This allows swimmers to stay in good shape throughout the year, not just the fall.

Some swimmers, Huffer said, practice both with a club team and Chaparral. This accumulates to about 20 hours per week with club swimming, she said.

Huffer said club swimming focuses on different forms at different times of the year, allowing participants to mix up their training.

Acheson also divides his time between club swimming and Chaparral.

“Doing it year round really builds your body; for most of us on the club, our goals are to try to make Olympic trials or somewhere near those fast times,” he said.

Not all swimmers participate in both club and high school swimming. Rodriguez said he trained on his own to prepare for the season.

Swimming isn’t the only part of the teams’ list of demands. Coach Krzyzanowski said many of the students take honors and AP courses to go along with the 30 hours per week the spend in training.

“I know what is needed for them to do in practice … and they make the most of it every day,” he said.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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