A move up to Division I didn’t keep the Chaparral High School girls’ swim & dive team from adding another state team title to their trophy case. They won their fifth consecutive title.
However, the Chaparral boys’ team ran up against the same immovable wall of talent that has plagued the rest of the D-I programs in the state for the last three decades. Brophy Prep continued its dominance in the sport by capturing its 31s straight state championship.
Chaparral swept both the boys’ and girls’ D-II titles last year, before moving up to D-I this year. The Firebirds wore out their welcome in D-II, as the girls’ team tacked on their fourth straight and the boys’ made it two in a row to make it six titles in program history.
The girls’ program was well-positioned to make the move to the state’s top conference this season. They dominated the 2017 state championships, winning nine of the 11 events to amass a total of 554 points and leave the rest of the field far behind.
Chaparral’s boys’ program, too, has been a powerful force the last few years. Last year, Matthew LeBlanc was named the Swimmer of the Meet at state after winning the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke. Chaparral was so deep in talent that, despite the fact that LeBlanc was the only individual winner, the Firebirds still piled up enough points to finish 162 points ahead of runner-up Catalina Foothills High School.
The year before, the Scottsdale school set multiple state records at the state meet, with Ryan Hoffer breaking records in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly, and Taylor Ruck setting new marks in the girls’ 100 and 200 freestyle events. Those teams were considered among the best in program history – and we’re just two years removed from that season.
And this year, it was LeBlanc again posting wins in the same two events to provide a scoring boost to give Chaparral the runner-up finish with 356 points, well behind Brophy’s winning total of 410.5. Actually, the junior, who also helped the Firebirds to a win in the 200 medley relay, has won both the 200 IM and 100 breast for three straight years.
LeBlanc, who was also named the azcentral Male Swimmer of the Year in 2017, posted winning times this year of 56.87 in the 100 breast and 1:51.54 in the 200 IM.
But Brophy used the strength of its relay teams to pull away from Chaparral this year, winning the 200 and 400 freestyle relays to help the Broncos stack up the 410.5 points it needed for another title. Chaparral. which had used a win in the 200 medley relay to build an early lead, fell behind as the meet progressed and finished runner-up with 356 points. Mesa’s Mountain View HS took third with 261.5 points.
Brophy used first-place finishes by senior Parker Hughes in the 100 free and junior Matt Milovanovic in the 100 backstroke to help wrap up its 31st straight title. Both swimmers also helped with the relay victories, with Hughes joining in the winning 200 free and 400 free relays, and Milovanovic swimming a leg of the winning 400 free relay.
On the girls’ side, Chaparral made its opening statement in its D-I debut by ousting reigning champion, Xavier Prep. The Firebirds rolled their way to a team total of 477.5, led by outstanding performances from a pair of sophomores. Xavier was runner-up, with 301 team points, and Mesa’s Mountain View HS took third with 170 points.
Chaparral’s Ashley Strouse won the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle events, races she also won last year as a freshman, and then jumped in to swim the lead-off leg of the winning 400 freestyle relay. Strouse set a new state record in the 200 free with a time of 1:45.44 and finished the 500 free in 4:48.70.
Teammate Greer Pattison also contributed a couple of individual wins, in the 50 free (23.16) and 100 backstroke (53.74), and then swam the first leg of the 200 free relay and anchored the 400 free relay.
Chaparral has a young team that should be a force to fear for at least a couple of years to come — regardless of what division they’re put into.
Brophy, of course, will just continue…to be Brophy.