For a few of the top swimmers in the state, this is the homestretch of their prep careers. A cadre of seniors are trying to leave their mark in the Arizona record books — in between recruiting trips.
Among those is butterfly state record holder John Wojciechowski of Phoenix Brophy, who missed the first invitational of the season because of his visit to the University of Texas but wasn’t about to miss his last Brophy/Xavier Invitational, held Saturday at the Brophy East pool in Phoenix.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” the senior said. “It would have been nice to have gone a little faster than I went last year.”
Wojo — as his friends call him — didn’t have to worry about going fast enough. With four wins, he led the Broncos to an easy win in the team competition, as Brophy amassed 513 points. Scottsdale Chaparral was second with 182, followed by Phoenix Mountain Pointe (179), Phoenix Arcadia (174), Gilbert (163) and Tempe Corona del Sol (161).
More importantly, he will likely go down as one of the most decorated swimmers in Arizona history. On Saturday, he took the 50 free (21.44) and the 100 butterfly (49.20) and was part of victorious 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams.
Brophy teammates Brian Stevens and Harrison Gibson also took their turns in the water on Saturday. Gibson — who was visiting Florida last week and missed the Chandler Wolves Classic — won the 100 breaststroke and was part of the winning 200 medley relay.
“I don’t necessarily think about that when I’m swimming or going to swim but it enters your mind,” said Gibson, who says he’ll also travel to Missouri and Ohio State. “Last high school season, last year at Brophy — definitely a part of it.”
Stevens won the 200 free and finished third in the 100 free, behind 4A-II standouts Tyler Messerschmidt and Chris Pickard.
On the girls side, Chaparral’s Leticia Lelli — who surprised swim fans last year at the Brophy/Xavier meet — seemed to surprise herself Saturday with a pair of impressive wins.
“I have no clue, I wasn’t expecting to go that fast,” said the sophomore who helped the Firebirds win the combined team title with 490 points. “I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t expecting to do this well at this meet.”
Lelli won the 200 free in 1:55.16, edging Pinnacle’s Kacey Milligan by 0.05 of a second, and then won the 100 butterfly by nearly two seconds, finishing in 56.45, not far off her 4A state-winning time of 55.65 last year.
Phoenix Xavier easily took the girls title on Saturday with 432 points, ahead of Chaparral (308), Tucson Canyon del Oro (184), Phoenix Horizon (178) and Phoenix Pinnacle (167).
The Gators also have a senior standout dealing with the stressors of trying to pick a college. Haley Krakoski – the defending state champion in the sprints – earned wins in the 100 free and the 100 backstroke after having to leave last week’s invitational early for a trip to UCLA.
“I would love to set meet records and stuff but really I think this meet is about getting in there and racing, hanging out with my team,” said Krakoski, a year-round club swimmer who said she is also visiting Stanford, California and Auburn. “I love my high school swimming, it’s my favorite time of the year.”
Kelli Benjamin continued her strong showing early in the season. The Gilbert Tiger won the 50 free by .08 of a second and was third in the 100 free. Milligan followed her 200 free effort with a win in the 500, three seconds ahead of Chaparral’s Malia Johnson.
Chaparral’s 200 free relay team of Alexis, Megan Cox, Carly Johnson and Lelli – a junior and three sophomores – beat Xavier by .62 of a second.
Cox was second in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 500 free.
Arcadia sophomore Carley Stevens got a third in the 500 free and fourth in the 200.