The stranglehold the Catholic schools have on high school swimming in this state is facing its biggest challenge in years.
This season’s Division I high school state swimming championships are shaping up to be the most exciting in recent memory, thanks to the emergence of Chaparral High School‘s boys and girls programs.
It has been a quarter of a century since a school other than Brophy Prep has won a boys’ state team title in the top division of the big-school competition, and 14 straight years that Xavier Prep has claimed the girls’ championship.
Last year, Brophy totally dominated at the state championships, scoring 344 points – almost doubling the 178 put up by runner-up Highland High. And Xavier also won going away, collecting 330 team points to far outpace second-place Pinnacle High, which finished with 245.
But this year it’s a different story. Chaparral is pounding on the door.
The Chaparral girls got the ball rolling by beating Xavier for the team championship at the Brophy Xavier Invitational at the end of last month. The week before that, Xavier had to settle for a third-place finish at the Wolves Thunder Classic at Chandler High School. The Gators were looking vulnerable, even though everyone knew they competed at the Thunder Classic without some of their top swimmers.
However, at last week’s dual meet between the Xavier and Chaparral girls and the Brophy and Chaparral boys the Gators showed they will still be the team to beat at state.
The Gators beat Chaparral 97-89 – but the meet was tied following the completion of the swimming competition and it wasn’t until Molly Kaiser won the diving that Xavier prevailed. None of the domination Xavier has enjoyed in years past.
On the boys’ side, Brophy looked vulnerable as well. The Broncos cruised past Chaparral at the Brophy Xavier Invitational, winning with 396 points, while the Firebirds settled for second place with 253.50 points. But last week it was a lot closer.
Brophy won the boys’ side of the dual meet with 98 points, but Chaparral wasn’t far behind this time, posting 87 points.
The Chaparral boys program got a big boost this year with the addition of freshman Ryan Hoffer, who has staked a claim on the 50-yard and 100-yard events. Last spring he became the youngest swimmer in the nation to break 45 seconds in the 100 free, clocking a time of 44.81 at the sectional championships, and came into the season in possession of the national record (20.02) for his age group in the 50 free.
Hoffer won the 50 free and the 200 fly last week at the dual, and also swam on the winning 200 medley and 400 relay teams.
The lanky 6’2″ freshman sensation gives the Firebirds the extra talent they needed to be considered one of the best swim teams ever at the Scottsdale school.
And that helps set the stage for a major showdown in three weeks when the state championships roll around.