Summer swim season starts

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Eliza Day pulls hard in the girls 9-10 butterfly race.

By Jon Johnson

PIMA – The Morenci Manta Rays swam down to Pima to take on the Pima Flippers on Friday for the initial summer swim meet for both teams. 

The camaraderie among swimmers from both clubs was high as the rivals congratulated each other after their races in an act of good team sportsmanship. 

“I think we did a great job today,” Pima head swim coach Natalie Schlittenhardt said. “The swimmers did really well. I’ve been gone out of town for a few days and I was really impressed. They did as well as I expect them to do for the first meet.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Ambrosia Johnson sprints to the finish in the girls 13-14 butterfly.

For most of the programs in the Gila Valley except for Morenci and those who participated in Eastern Arizona College’s fall and spring program, the summer swim season is the only swim team locally that is available. At the start of the season, coaches take those who have barely been in the water or haven’t been all year and by the end, they always show great improvement in their times and stroke development. 

For the Channen and Sara Day family, they’ve seen first hand how their children improve from year to year from their youngest swimming in 6-and-unders and oldest swimmer in the top 15-18 age group. 

“We look forward to it every year,” Sara Day said. “(It’s) totally exciting and it’s fun to see the progress of everybody through the six weeks. You can see the progress in the kids and they love it. That’s the fun for us – seeing them progress from barely being able to finish to (coming in first.) It’s awesome.”

Channen Day agreed and said even over the course of just one meet a swimmer can improve. 

“We didn’t start out really well this meet, but she (Eliza Day) finished really well,” Channen Day said. “You can recover after one race and make it a totally different experience. I’m proud of her.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci’s Avery Johnson pulls her way to a first-place finish in the girls 13-14 butterfly.

The summer regular meets aren’t scored, but times are kept and are used for placements in the finals at the end of the year. 

For Morenci, state champion swimmer Avery Johnson (13-14), Marlo Day (15-18) and Quinton Wiltbank (13-14) led the way, taking first place in every event they swam.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci’s Israel Bernal eyes the finish.

For Pima, it was an attack by the masses as they outnumbered the Morenci team in the younger age categories and often found their swimmers sweeping the races.

Next up, Pima will host Safford on Friday and Morenci will take on Thatcher. 

“We’ll practice really hard the next four days and be ready to go again next Friday,” Schlittenhardt said. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima’s Kali McEuen checks out the competition during the girls 7-8 breaststroke.

Click here to view a photo album from the meet.

This article was updated Monday to include EAC’s fall and spring swim program.

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