Chad Riester felt a whirlwind of emotion during the final day of the AIA Swimming Championships.
Riester, who brought nine Canyon del Oro swimmers to the boys state championships during the first weekend of November, watched patiently as his team moveed up the scoreboard.
He watched as the team’s backbone, in the 200-yard freestyle relay team of Landyn Riester (Chad’s son), Alex Pollock, Riley Stewart and Wyatt Matson, smashed their competition to win gold. And then he watched as the team’s 400-yard freestyle relay team of Matson, Pollock, Riester and Ryder Platt secured the team’s place in the history books.
Riester, who returned this year to coach the Dorados after a brief sabbatical, was amazed at how his boys finished off their competition. The Dorados won the Division II championship, scoring 246.5 points in the two-day event, 27.5 more than second-place finisher Salpointe Catholic.
It was a winning margin that supplied the longtime coach some comfort entering the day’s final event, but not enough to rest on their laurels.
“It would have taken one individual not to swim their race or get disqualified in one relay,” Riester said. “Our relays felt like we swam all three of them really solidly, but not as fast as we could have. The kids were safe. We know we’ve got eyes on us watching to make sure we don’t jump the gun, and they probably could’ve gone faster but we knew from the beginning of the season that we had the team that could do it.”
Stewart, who was a key component of the 200-yard relay gold medal, remembers how nervous all nine of the Dorados’ swimmers in Mesa were entering the final races of the competition.
The freshman recalled how those collective nerves helped the squad stay focus on the task at hand, as it reminded them of what was at-stake with each and every race.
“It was really nerve wracking because we weren’t really sure that we were going to win it in the finals,” Stewart said. “We figured that we all tried our best and once we heard that we did win it, it was really exciting and we all just came together.”
Stewart said the team’s success through the year was the result of Riester’s positive coaching style, in combination with the immense camaraderie shared by swimmers young and old.
“He knows how to get us all hyped up and get us ready to swim, to make sure we’re mentally prepared at the same time,” Stewart said.
The key to bringing home the school’s first-ever boys swimming championship was consistency, according to Riester.
“Most of our kids did really well the first day,” Riester said. “They moved up in their rankings and that was kind of the game plan that day. We knew where we stacked up, we knew it was going to be a fairly close to even meet.”
Riester remembered how he and his swimmers were unsure where they stood entering the final relays Saturday, Nov. 3. The longtime coach had a good feeling his team was in the top-three of the competition, which is why he advised them to swim intelligently, so they wouldn’t get disqualified by jumping the gun.
Riester’s business-like approach to the biggest moment in the half-century-old program’s history helped his swimmers stay calm.
“We looked at the other two teams that we believed were ahead of us, and we didn’t feel like they had places to move up,” he said. “They only had places to move down. And so, we really kind of swam with that attitude. We were trying to move our swimmers up in points.”
Riester, a CDO alumnus, coached the Dorados for 10 years between 2003-2012, before taking a six-year break from the sport. He took lessons learned from another strong Dorados team, which finished fourth overall 15 years ago, in building this year’s roster.
The combination of Riester’s institutional knowledge and teamwide camaraderie was the key to victory for the Dorados.
“This year’s team, they have just had such camaraderie, brotherhood and they watch out for each other,” Riester said. “They spend so much time practicing in the pool, getting up at 4:30 to make a 5 a.m. practice with their year-round team, four days a week. So, they’re committed.”