Originally Published: October 1, 2011 10:16 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The friendship among Prescott High School varsity boys' swimmers Mason Burchfield, Charles Miller, Daniel Schleicher and Grant Temple is so strong that it's pushed them to new heights in the pool this fall.
Their fondness for each other has had a direct effect on their work ethic and heightened their talents.
During the Badgers' home meet against rival Bradshaw Mountain Sept. 8 at the Prescott YMCA, these boys established a new school record in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1 minute and 32.23 seconds. That tally came not long after they broke another all-time school mark in the 200 medley relay.
The foursome, leaders of a stalwart PHS boys' team, currently has its eyes on another all-time Badgers record in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
But during a state tournament qualifying meet at Phoenix Brophy Prep Sept. 24, Burchfield broke two individual school records in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle, and notched two state preliminary qualifying times.
Meanwhile, Temple established a new school mark in the 100 butterfly in 52.18 seconds, which handed him a state automatic qualifying time. He also automatically qualified for the 100 backstroke, as did he and the others in the 200 medley relay.
Longtime PHS coach Brigid Bunch said one of the main reasons for the success of her best male swimmers is that they work so well together in the pool and enjoy being around each other out of it.
"Mason, Daniel and I are best friends," he said. "We hang out all the time."
Added Burchfield, "We know how to motivate each other."
Seniors Burchfield (6-foot, 160 pounds), Miller (6-3, 160) and Schleicher (5-9, 155), who's also a solid varsity baseball player, have been swimming for Bunch for the past four years. Temple (6-3, 165) is only a sophomore.
However, the real key is that they all practice together year-round and compete on the same Prescott Swim Club team in the off-season to continually improve their times.
In the medley relay, Temple is the backstroke leadoff, Miller is the breaststroke leadoff, Burchfield is the butterfly leadoff and Schleicher anchors the freestyle.
Bunch said the seniors on the team set a goal as freshmen "to be one awesome relay team" because they had tough shoes to fill with past Badgers star swimmers who set school marks, such as Matt Muchna, Max Payne and Richard Schleicher, Daniel's older brother.
Ironically, Daniel - who's been swimming since age 5 - was a member of a past 200 freestyle relay team with his brother, Muchna and Payne that broke the record in that event prior to last month's heroics.
"They set that goal of beating the records, and they've done it," Bunch said. "They're taking down some big names."
The future looks bright for these boys, whether in or out of the pool. Next fall, Miller is contemplating walking on as a swimmer at a Division I school. His dream is to compete for Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
Miller has been swimming competitively since he was 6 years old in San Diego. Bunch said Miller is "a born leader" who "wins everything he swims."
In the individual events, he's the strongest in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke. Miller's current best time in the 100 breast is 1:01, although he wants to push that to under a minute.
Schleicher, who's primarily a sprinter, is solid in the backstroke and in the 50 and 100 freestyle.
Burchfield, a distance swimmer who swims in both the 200 and 500 freestyle, is a hard worker, Bunch said.
And Temple, a young, raw talent, swims in the 100 freestyle and should contend in the 100 fly and the 100 backstroke at the state meet later this fall. Miller and Burchfield said Temple is the Badgers' best swimmer and "by far the fastest" on their relay team.
To improve their times during the prep season, the boys swim four hours a day on weekdays and two hours on Saturdays. During the club campaign they swim two hours per day.
Bunch said she admires each boy's work ethic. She added that it's been fun to watch them mature while setting new school records in the process.
"I'm so proud of them," the coach said. "I didn't know if it would be possible."