Christopher Wuensch,

Oct. 26, 2005 - The Oro Valley Municipal Pool was the hub of the Southern Arizona swimming world Oct. 22 as 18 high schools splashed down to compete in the Class 4A region championships.

Catalina Foothills High School has proved once again why it is the team to beat in Arizona swimming as the Falcons boys and girl's squads swam to Kino region titles. The meet was also a chance for individual swimmers to qualify for a spot at the state meet.

A total of 87 swimmers from the Northwest and Foothills will make the trip to the Class 4A state finals - including 40 Falcons.

Enroute to winning its region, the Foothills' boys next closest competitor was Desert Christian High School, which finished a distant second, 291 points behind. On the girls side, Sahauro High School didn't fare much better. The Falcons scored 668 points to the second-place Cougars' 370.5.

In a much closer competition, Rincon High School nudged the Ironwood Ridge High School girls out of first place by a score of 454 to 442. The two were tied as late as event 19 in the 24-event meet.

Catalina Foothills won't be alone in sending swimmers to state. The Class 4A selects the region winners and the top 19 times that follow.

The Falcons already figured a majority of them would be heading to the state meet, which will be held Oct. 28 and 29 at the Southwest YMCA in Goodyear. The question was who was in and who would be left off the bus when the state qualifiers were announced later that day.

With weary bones, wrinkled fingers and sunburned skin, the team gathered for a region championship celebratory barbeque and anxiously waited for the state qualifying results to be posted online.

Not too many went home disappointed as all of the girls and all but five boys were selected to represent Foothills at state. Having 40 swimmers is important for the Falcons whose boys and girls teams are looking to claim their sixth consecutive state titles.

"Our focus is always on state," said Foothills head coach Nicole Sayers.

Bryan O'Connor and Adrian Kirkpatrick of Foothills boys squad are the only area swimmers to be ranked No. 1 heading into the state meet. Kirkpatrick is tops in the 200-fresstyle while the senior O'Conner leads all boys in the 100-backstroke and the 200-individual medley. Both are members of the Falcons' 200 and 400-freestyle relay quartets, which are also No. 1 in the state.

Representing the Northwest will be a collection of talented swimmers, including 21 from Ironwood Ridge, nine from Canyon Del Oro and Marana high schools, respectively, and eight from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy.

Ironwood Ridge's Brian Anderson paced the Nighthawks to third in the region behind Rincon and Sabino high schools. Anderson anchored the boys 200-freestyle relay, which finished with a time of one minute 34.87 seconds, good enough for the second best time in the state this year.

Teammates Lindsey and Courtney Miller, Chloe Buser, and Kate Stanley make up the Ironwood Ridge girls 200-frestyle relay which will enter the state meet ranked No.3.

For Marana, Madison Hill (best friends with Courtney Miller from their days swimming for the Pusch Ridge Swim Club) was among the highlights of the region finals, taking first in the 100-yard butterfly. The sophomore is ranked fifth in the state overall with a time slightly over one minute. Hill also is a member of the Tigers' 400-freestyle and 200-medley relay squads.

She returns to state this year after finishing 17th in the 100-butterfly last year. After struggling for much of the season with a chronic shoulder injury, Hill is just now getting to full strength, setting personal bests at the region finals.

"There's really not much of a difference," said Hill comparing this year to her freshman campaign. "I haven't been too strong until the last week."

Among the nine swimmers heading to state for Canyon Del Oro will be Justin Wray. Wray is in the top 10 in the state in the boys 200 and 500-freestlye events. Other CDO qualifiers include Nick Scala (100-backstroke) and Melissa Lowry (50 and 100-freestlye).

Making its first trip to the state meet will be a squad from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy. The Lions will bring a boys and a girls relay team. The boys squad of Dylan Jones, Devon Kelly, Josh Spegman and A.J. Hawkins clocked in with a time of one minute and 45 seconds to finish 22nd overall in the state in the 200-freestyle relay. Qualifying for state in the same event for Pusch Ridge is a girls quartet of Shay Duffin, Shawna Bleyl, Kira Miller and Sam Still.

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