Gray makes swim finals, places 11th to earn six team points to tie for 30th

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore Thaddeus Gray finished 11th in the state meet 100 freestyle after qualifying for the finals as the 16th seed. He earned six points to give Morenci 30th of 32 teams scoring.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

PARADISE VALLEY – Seeded 21st to qualify for the 24 slots in the Division III state meet, Morenci sophomore Thaddeus Gray made a big splash in the 100 freestyle preliminaries. He surpassed his season-best clocking of 53.59 to qualify with 52.89 to make the cutoff as the 16th seed for the finals, or a leap of six slots.

However, the Greenlee County student-athlete wasn’t satisfied or ready to turn in the towel. He dug deep into his psyche, turned out another season-best effort, and placed 11th (51.38) in the season-ending race.

Amanda and Thaddeus Gray Sr. couldn’t have sported bigger ear-to-ear smiles, beaming with pride at their son’s two-day, 10-slot improvement.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore Israel Bernal set a school record in the 400 freestyle during a Tucson-held meet. He was part of the Wildcats 200 medley relay team at the final state qualifying meet.

Gray was a question mark prior to the state meet.

“I wasn’t sure if he would make the finals,” first-year Morenci head coach Eric Waananen said.

The only one Gray needed to beat was himself. Cutting a previous time with each subsequent outing is the goal. Mission accomplished. His six points tied Morenci with Chandler Prep for 30th of 32 teams, 10th of 10 from public schools.

“You earn your reward (in swimming),” Gray said. “Everything is based on time.”

Gray started swimming at age six in the Land of Enchantment and became part of a club team in Morenci during the fifth grade.

“There’s quantity more than quality (on the club team),” he said. “You interact more on a high school team (than on a club team). You show up for a meet on your own and go home after it’s over (on a club team). School times are harder than USA swimming (times). It’s the best exercise. It helps with joint problems because there’s no stress on them.”

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Freshman David Marquez Jr. swam a leg on Morenci’s final state meet qualifying relay entrant.

Junior Ryan Graham of Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin was ninth (50.40), John Moore of PCDS 10th (51.37); Hen Richardson of PCDS was 12th (51.90), Maximus Learner of PCDS 13th (51.91), senior Michael Primero-Predgo of San Manuel 14th (52.08), freshman Andrew Kang of Chandler Arizona College Prep 15th (52.67), and Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian 16th (52.68).

Chandler Seton Catholic junior James Karam finished first with a time of 47.58. His prelim time was 47.55.

The Division III state meet was being held in Paradise Valley’s Dady Aquatic Center, with preliminaries on Nov. 2 and finals on Nov. 3.

Host PCDS finished first with 254 points, Prep Phoenix Veritas Prep second (204.5), Scottsdale Saguaro third (203.5), Seton Catholic fourth (177), Anthem Prep fifth (130), Pusch Ridge Christian sixth (126), Gilbert Classical seventh (125), Cottonwood Mingus Union eighth (121), Glendale Cactus ninth (78), and Sahuarita 10th (76).

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore Jazper Brooks was also a member of Morenci’s 200 medley relay team.

Queen Creek American Leadership placed 11th (72), Sedona Red Rock 12th (70), Arizona College Prep and Tucson Sabino tied for 13th (67), Benjamin Franklin 15th (54), Goodyear Estrella Foothills and Tucson Desert Christian tied for 16th (50), San Manuel 18th (49), Tempe Prep 19th (48), and Phoenix Horizon Honors 20th (34).

Gilbert Christian was 21st (32), Tucson Tanque Verde 22nd (31), Sahuarita Waldon Grove 23rd (29), Gilbert Arete Prep 24th (28), Flagstaff Northland Prep 25th (26), Scottsdale Prep 26th (24), Scottsdale Christian 27th (13), Glendale Trivium Prep 28th (9), Phoenix Shadow Mountain 29th (7), and Phoenix Bourgade Catholic 32nd (3).

Southern Arizona Regional

One individual and one relay team qualified to compete for the state meet during the Southern Arizona Regional Qualifying meet. A provisional time in an event during the season was the entrants’ criteria.

The boys 200 medley relay team of sophomores Israel Bernal and Jazper Brooks, Gray, and freshman David Marquez Jr. came in 18 (2:16.24) of 24. The winning time was 1:44.48 by the Tucson Catalina Foothills quartet of sophomore Minh Le, junior Joseph Plunkett, senior Scott Pekarske, and junior Preston Grandpre.

“They were all nervous before the meet,” Waananen said.