Morenci swim team places 22nd of 34; Wiltbank 10th and 12th in individual events

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tyler Lewis entered the 50 freestyle at the Division III state swim meet, ending with a preliminary time of 24.59. It was not fast enough to make the top 16.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Gabriel Clancy along with brother Max, Clinton Sipes Jr., and Bryce Crowder, was on Morenci’s 200 freestyle relay entered in the final state qualifying meet in Tucson on Oct. 29. The quartet did not qualify for the state meet. Exercise equipment was all available for meet preparation during the first two-thirds of the season.

MORENCI – Sunday, July 26, 2022, will not go down in history as a “Day of Infamy.” The late Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States, labeled “December 7, 1941,” when the “the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,“ as that. It prompted congress to declare war on the Asian nation and was the USA’s entrance into World War II.

But, a weather event during the months ago summer day did alter and make changes affecting the Morenci community. Most noticeably, the start of the 2022-23 school year was delayed by a few days as flooded classrooms were cleaned and readied for that purpose. At first, the October Fall Break was projected as the completion date but has since been re-projected for later. Classes are still being held without replaced flooring in some rooms.

Another affected area was the Morenci Aquatic Center, the community swimming pool. Four pumps were damaged and it would be nearly mid-Fall before the pool was useable. 

What that meant, the public as a whole and the school swim team did not have access to the full-size outdoor pool. The Wildcats could not practice in it for two-thirds of their season. The team attended two state qualifying meets without the use of it, focusing on “land-locked preparation,” available recreation center machines, and the smaller inside pool two days a week during September.

It is often advised to do the best you can with what you have, and that was exactly what they did. Five members of the fifth-year program, four boys and a girl posted times largely attained in that manner and qualified for the state meet held last weekend.

Four Morenci student-athletes placed to score points during the two-day Division III state swim meet at Paradise Valley’s Phoenix Country Day School on Nov. 5. Dana Bayardo was in her fourth year of coaching the fifth-year program.

The Wildcats totaled 24 points for the 22nd of 34 teams scoring points. Chandler Arizona College Prep finished first with 248 points. The Division III entrants came from 22 private and 12 public schools.

The Morenci 200 medley relay, seniors Tyler Lewis, Elijah Leyba, and Quinton Wiltbank along with sophomore Pedro Young Jr. posted a school record time of 1:51.26, surpassing its sectional meet time of 1:53.83 on Oct. 29 and 2019 clocking of 1:52.74. The Wildcats finished 10th.

The same Morenci quartet (Leyba, Lewis, Young, Wiltbank) was in the 400 free relay top 24, seeded 13th with 3:42.24, but ended at 3:44.58 in the preliminaries to become No. 18 and the second alternate.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Three MHS swim teamers kick up white water as they hold onto the side of the small indoor pool. The Wildcats had this facility available to them for 45 minutes twice a week during September. It was the only time they were in the water preparing for meets before the full-size outdoor pool was available.

Individually, Wiltbank, Lewis, and Leyba were in the hunt for top 16 finishes.

Wiltbank placed 12th in the 100 butterfly (56.69) and 13th in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.69). His preliminary times were slightly quicker, 56.06 (100 Fly) and 11:04.39 (Breast) which surpassed his seeding times of 57.80 (100 Fly) and 1:07.15 (100 Breast). He twice re-set his personal 100 Fly mark, from 58.18 in the 2019 state meet preliminaries to 56.58 in the 2020 state finals, to 55.80 in the 2021 state finals; and once his 100 Breast time, from 1:07.51 in 2019 to 1:04.34 in 2021.

Lewis had a time of 1:02.64 in the backstroke preliminaries to become the second alternate. He too twice re-set personal times, from 1:05.24 in 2019, to 1:04.83 in 2020, to 1:02.57 in 2021.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Four members of the Morenci swim team accounted for the 24 team points scored during the Division III state meet on Nov. 5. The quartet, entered in both the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay, is from left, Tyler Lewis, Elijah Leyba, Quinton Wiltbank, and Pedro Young Jr. At center back is alternate Clinton Sipes Jr.

Leyba finished 12th of 24 in the 100 Free with a clocking of 53.86 (26.05, 27.81). He was ranked 16th prior to the meet.

“I wish we had the opportunity (to use the pool the whole season),” Wiltbank said.

The Wildcats lacked enough pool time to work on technique, conditioning, and tapering.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Quinton Wiltbank placed 12th in the 100 butterfly (56.69) and 13th in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.66). The team used several machines in the recreation center to prepare for meets prior to having the full-size outdoor pool available.

“Our class had different circumstances, a coaching change, Covid, and the pool situation,” Lewis added.

The Wildcats attended three state qualifying meets, two in September and one in October.

 “We still got the opportunity to see what we could do,” Wiltbank said. “Five of seven of us placed (at the state meet).”

The winning relays were Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian 200 Medley Relay, consisting of seniors Ross Wilson and Brian Stahlman, junior Alexander Equid, and sophomore Ryan Stamer, with a seeding time of 1:40.37, with a preliminary time of 1:41.90, and final clocking of 1:38.72; Chandler Valley Christian 200 Free Relay seniors Seth Lawyer, Dustin Henry, and Luke Reyes along with junior Tucker Roth, with a seed time of 1:34.39, preliminary time of 1:30.68, and a finals time of 1:30.47; and Valley Christian 400 Free Relay, including senior Dustin Henry, junior Isaya Collins, senior Luke Reyes, and junior Tucker Roth, with a seeding time of 3:24.36, preliminary time of 3:24.31, and a finals time of 3:19.10.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Lone Morenci girls’ entrant Isabella Leyba dons a cap before heading to the starting line for her heat of the 200 individual medley. She finished as the second alternate with a 2:31.46 preliminary time.

The individual event winners were Tucson Salpointe Catholic junior Keegan Kelly in the 50 Free with 21:37 and 200 Free with 1:40.16; Pusch Ridge sophomore Ryan Stamer in the 100 Free with 46.30; Pusch Ridge junior Alexander Equid in the 100 Fly with 52.16; Tucson Tanque Verde junior Nicholas Cusson in the 100 Back with 53.10; Chandler Valley Christian senior Luke Reyes in the 100 Breast with 58.32 (58.12 prelim); Sedona Red Rock senior Carlos Lattanzi in the 200 IM with 1:51.86; and Goodyear Estrella Foothills sophomore Tanner Sheffert in the 500 Free with 4:45.29 (4:41.70 prelim).

Paradise Valley’s Phoenix Country Day School finished second with 230 points, Tucson Salpointe Catholic third (194), Chandler Valley Christian fourth (173), Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian fifth (171), Tucson Tanque Verde sixth (122), Phoenix Saint Mary’s seventh (104), Sedona Red Rock eighth (99), and Fountain Hills 10th (92).

Scottsdale Prep was 11th (72.5), Chandler Prep 12th (70), Gilbert Classical 13th (69), Sahuarita Walden Grove 14th (67), Goodyear Estrella Foothills and Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep tied 15th (62), Phoenix Horizon Honors 17th (57), Phoenix Shadow Mountain 18th (55), Buckeye Odyssey Institute 19th (40), and Surprise Paradise Honors 20th (35).

Mesa Eastmark was 21st (34.5), Morenci 22nd (24), Tucson Mica Mountain 23rd (23), Chandler Seton Catholic 24th (19), Cottonwood Mingus and Gilbert Christian tied for 25th (18), Scottsdale Cicero Prep 27th (11), Tucson Sabino 28th (10), Scottsdale Christian 29th (9), and Tucson’s The Gregory School 30th (6).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Elijah Leyba entered the 50 freestyle, ending with a preliminary time of 24.59. It was not fast enough to make the top 16.

Sahuarita was 31st (5), and both Queen Creek American Leadership and Avondale Saint John Paul II Catholic tied for 33rd (2).

Morenci Girls

During the preliminaries, freshman Isabella Leyba clocked in with 2:32.07 for the 200 individual medley, finishing as the second alternate at No. 18, and 1:00.08 for the 100 freestyle to finish as No. 19. S he did not qualify for the finals in either event or score team points.