For the first time in 14 years, the state big school girls swim trophy was held by a team other than Xavier.
The Desert Vista girls held the trophy aloft on Satruday as the sun went down on the Division I swimming state championship meet at Skyline High School in Mesa after the Thunder edged Xavier in points 278.5-267.
The Thunder became the first school to beat the Phoenix parochial school since 1998, when Mountain View prevailed. Xavier had won 10 straight prior to the Toros' victory as well.
“Trying for a long, long, long time,” Desert Vista coach Shawn O’Connell said when asked how his team pulled off the historical win. “Being lucky in a cycle at our school where the outgoing seniors are there long enough for the incoming freshmen to come in. A bit of luck. Determination. This team was mentally tough.”
The Thunder only had one state champion on Saturday, Cecelia Kowalski in the 200 freestyle, and she tied Brianna Leverenz of Tucson Rincon with a time of 1:50.48. Desert Vista only had one other second-place finish – the 400 free relay – but otherwise did not have a bunch of individual stars.
Annabella Ankeney was fifth in the 100 freestyle but also anchored the meet-ending 400 freestyle relay and stayed ahead of Xavier on that final leg to ensure the team victory.
“It feels so amazing,” Ankeney said. “We beat them in a dual meet and that was amazing and then we worked so hard today, and we were putting so much effort, it was the honestly the biggest goal this entire season. We did this today and it is the best feeling ever. I am so proud of my team.”
The Thunder were second in that 400 freestyle relay with the team of Noelle Lavigne, Bailee Blankemeier, Kowalski and Ankeney. They were also third in the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay.
“We knew that (Friday) we swam strong, we swam lights out,” O’Connell said. “And so did Xavier. Coming into (Friday), anyone could have won. But (Friday) we swam near perfect, as far as season-best times, unheard of. All we wanted was a chance today. And we put outselves in position.”
O’Connell acknowledged that a number of teams seemingly had a shot at ending Xavier’s run, including Pinnacle, which came in third at 243, or Chaparral, who was fourth with 211.5. Chandler finished fifth at 169.
The Thunder’s win overshadow a few other great individual performances on the day, including Gilbert senior Ashley Grijalva’s swim in the 100 breaststroke, right before that final relay.
Grijalva clocked an automatic All-American time of 1:02.46, more than a second better than her preliminary time from Friday and partly making up for her disappointing fifth place finish in the 200 individual medley after coming in with the third-best time.
“Last year I got third and all three of us were very close and I was very happy to get third,” Grijalva said. “And all this season we have been training very hard.”
Grijalva outlasted Xavier’s Christina Valenzuela, who finished in 1:04.95, and Perry junior Raevin Richardson at 1:05.09.
Katie Shannahan of Desert Mountain won the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly, the second win coming over two Xavier swimmers who were within .63 of a second of the junior. In the medley, she easily beat Savanna Carlson of Arcadia (2:06.45) and Karilyn Quon of Corona del Sol (2:06.92).
Pinnacle’s Victoria Toris swept the sprints for the second year in a row. She won the 50 free in an automatic all-American time of 23.12, ahead of teammate Samantha Fazio of Pinnacle (23.40) and Alora Foliaki of Desert Ridge (23.75). Toris clocked another All-American time in the 100 at 50.55, beating sophomore Madison Mullins of Hamilton (51.53) and Carlson of Arcadia (51.62).
Isabel Whited of Pinnacle won the 500 freestyle by more than a second and a half and Matti Harrison of Arcadia took the 100 backstroke in a time of 57.04.
In the diving competition, Sydney Stallard of Mountain View placed third with 418.7 points, Morgan Mellow of Desert Ridge was fourth (415.6) and Cassi Blakeman of Red Mountain was fifth (415.4). Tucson High’s Delaney Schnell scored 504.15 points to win.