Tamara Lelli and Sarah Cox have some unfinished business. The Scottsdale Chaparral swimmers enter this weekend’s 4A-I state meet with one last chance at individual titles — and one more shot at their nemesis, Tucson Catalina Foothills.
“The past few years we have been so close,” Lelli said.
The Firebirds have been runners-up three years running — with Lelli and Cox in the water each time.
“It started my freshman year with my sister (Lauren) and that was the goal — beat Catalina,” Cox said.
“I think it’s time.”
Catalina Foothills has won seven straight boys and girls state titles. But Chaparral has 18 girls qualified for the prelims in an attempt to challenge the Falcons.
“Is it going to be enough?” Chaparral coach Dave Hildebrandt said. “It’s going to be tough. This is going to be the biggest meet in these kids’ swim career.”
The Falcons beat the Firebirds by 61 points last year and by 32.5 points in 2004.
“Obviously it’s not going to bring us down (if we don’t win),” Cox said. “If we had a good season and gave it a good run, we’re going to be happy.”
Lelli and Cox each figure to score big points in their respective events. Lelli, who is being courted by several Division I schools, won the 200 freestyle at the Desert Sky regional last weekend while Cox was right behind Paradise Valley’s Jaclyn Branning in the 200 individual medley. Both Lelli and Cox will be in the 100 butterfly: Lelli has the top-seeded time and Cox is third, just a second back in qualifying.
Even though they’re racing for individual honors, it’s a team sport.
“Very possibly our kids will be in lanes right next to a Catalina swimmer,” Hildebrandt said. “And I told them that when you are in the water not only are you swimming for a personal best time, if you let that person in the lane next to you beat you, then they got points for their school and took away points from you.”
Lelli has the third best time in the 200 freestyle, about two seconds behind Karima Chuk of Foothills. In the 100 freestyle, Firebird sophomore Ashley Brewer has the second best time, just ahead of three Foothills swimmers in the top six. Brewer is also seeded high in the 100 backstroke and Kasey Taylor in the 100 breaststroke.
Chaparral’s boys have been close in previous years but have lost most of their top swimmers to graduation.
Firebird junior Tudor Florea won the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly at the Desert Sky regional last week and has the best time in the 200 IM in the state by nearly three seconds going into today’s preliminaries.
4A-I, 4A-II state meets
When: Preliminaries, 9:45 a.m. today; Finals, 1:45 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mona Plummer Aquatic Center, ASU