October 12, 2005 - It was supposed to be a fun event, a break in between the more serious heats of the day at the 2005 Canyon Del Oro Dorado Relays.
Instead, the water polo dribble nearly decided the eighth annual swim meet hosted by Canyon Del Oro High School.
Five teams - Amphitheater, Cienega, Ironwood Ridge, Marana and Santa Rita high schools - joined host Canyon Del Oro for this year's Dorado Relays Oct. 9 at the Oro Valley Municipal Pool, 23 W. Calle Concordia, as a trio of Northwest schools proved it remains among the elite swim programs in Southern Arizona in talent and in fun.
In its eighth year, the Dorado Relays are designed to be an exhibition-style event featuring coed and specialty races, such as the popular water polo relay. Wins and losses don't count toward the regular season, instead, the meet is the perfect setting for kids who don't often swim to get a chance to do so.
All season the boys and girls practice together but compete separately; the Dorado Relays let's them compete as one.
"It's truly the one sport where they can compete coed," said Canyon Del Oro head coach Chad Reister.
Three years ago, Reister revamped the meet, changing it from individual events to its current format of coed relays. The switch creates an entertaining morning of swimming and allows coaches to not only play with their lineups, but, gives young or less talented swimmers a chance to compete with the team's top athletes.
"This is a chance for kids to get in there and mix it up," said Ironwood Ridge head coach Mark Chatigny. "It's been a fun season so far and this is a fun way to cap it off."
Chatigny's squad claimed its first Dorado Relays title with a 62 point win over Marana, which amassed 270 points to third place CDO's 248.
But the real excitement came in the water polo dribble, where swimmers do laps while controlling a ball using only their face. For Marana, redemption was the name of the game for its boys and girl's foursomes of water polo dribblers.
By winning the event, Marana claimed its second water polo dribble title in as many years and, for the time being, wrested control of the meet from Ironwood Ridge. The water polo win could have been the Tiger's third straight had a technicality not nullified its win in 2003.
"We had to defend our title," said Marana senior Trevor Dimmick about the specialty race, which he and teammates Jason Bowman, Kalob Williams and Keith Walker won handily.
Complimenting the boys win with a victory of their own in the dribble was Marana girl's foursome of Sabrina Welsh, Brindy Bringhurst, Madison Hill, Eleana Acosta.
Down by 20 points, Ironwood Ridge turned to a mixed bag of veteran and novice swimmers to head the comeback. Led by Lindsey Miller, the Nighthawks were able to finish strong in the final four freestyle relays and pulled off the win with an 82 point swing.
Although Ironwood Ridge got the last laugh, nobody left the Oro Valley Pool with a frown.
"We wanted to show that we are competitive and can still have fun," said Miller, moments after puling herself out of the pool after clinching the final relay and the win for the Nighthawks. "Our team had a lot of fun with it, it was real laid back."
So laid back that before the meet, which started at 8:30 a.m., Miller and her teammates dressed up in 1980s attire replete with spandex, high socks, cut T-shirts and, of course, side ponytails, said the senior who was all business in the pool guiding Ironwood Ridge to the win.
Chatigny's squad won the Dorado Relays despite being short about 15 swimmers due to the Amphi School District intercession break, which began that day. The shortage of swimmers will carry over when the Nighthawks take the pool Oct. 13 to face off against Marana once again in the final meet of the season before the region championships, which will be held a week later, also at the Oro Valley Pool.
Reister was in a rush to exit the pool at the conclusion of the relays and with good reason. Final preparations still needed to be made before he and his squad left for Durango, Colo., that night. In the five-day trip to Durango over the break, CDO will practice twice a day in local pools and hold an informal intra-squad scrimmage.
The trip is the second one of its kind and is used as a means to break up the season and bond the team before the regional championship.
When the Dorados return, there won't be anymore dribbling, but Ironwood Ridge and Marana will be waiting. And the fun could be over.