Prescott swimming likes move to Div. 2; opens season Thursday in Phoenix
Prescott High swimming drops from the higher-enrollment Division 1 to the lower-enrollment D-2 starting this season, and that suits longtime coach Brigid Bunch just fine.
The Badgers' boys' and girls' swimmers will take on teams that are of a similar caliber, the coach said, and that factor alone should make the squad more competitive in the years to come.
"It's where we belong," Bunch said of Prescott's D-2 status. "It's going to be more our style."
PHS begins the fall campaign at noon Thursday at Central High in Phoenix.
The Badgers won't host their home opener until 4 p.m. Sept. 19, against Phoenix St. Mary's and Phoenix Camelback at the Prescott YMCA's indoor pool. Nevertheless, they'll have five home meets, an unusually high number that includes their annual showdown versus rival Bradshaw Mountain Oct. 3.
For Prescott on the boys' side, senior Grant Temple, sophomore Jaxton Peterson and junior Billy Barlow lead the way in 2013.
Temple, a D-1 state qualifier last season, is Prescott's fastest, most versatile and talented swimmer who's expected to swim at the college level after graduation.
This fall, Temple will be gunning for a D-2 state title in the 100-yard butterfly, which remains his ultimate individual goal, Bunch said.
At last November's D-1 state meet Temple nearly won the 100 fly, his specialty, succumbing by only 18 hundredths of a second to Tucson Catalina Foothills' Jason Alentado.
"Grant's going to be my go-to guy," Bunch said. "Since we have mostly new swimmers this year - brand new to competitive swimming - we don't have many that are going to fill out (events) like the 100 fly and the 200 IM (individual medley) or the 500, so he's going to be plugging those holes."
Peterson, who has won state titles in the 50 fly and 50 freestyle as a member of his Club team, is a strong and reliable sprinter, like Temple.
"He also knows all the strokes," Bunch added about Peterson. "So he's another one that I can use in various places."
Meanwhile, Barlow's been working extremely hard in the pool, Bunch said. His best events are the backstroke and the fly.
"Billy's a great leader with high aspirations," she said. "He's a really good swimmer who's going to shine this year."
Freshman transfer Ali Mahmoud, who's a natural in the breaststroke, will contribute in the relay events.
"He has some potential," Bunch said of the former Californian.
On the girls' side, Prescott returns junior Toko Miller, who's a third-year varsity swimmer, as well as senior twin sisters McKenzie and Meghan Lain, who are in their fourth year in the program. They're all expected to qualify individually for state in November, although they didn't last year in D-1.
"Toko's probably my No. 1 swimmer," said Bunch of Miller, who specializes in the breaststroke. "She's a softball player and plans to get a scholarship in softball, so she's been going to camp quite a bit and kind of saving her arms for that. So it's yet to be seen. It's some real working out and buckling down."
Bunch added that the Lain twins can swim in any event.
"They're great at all strokes," she said.
As for other possible standouts, the coach said that it's too soon to tell. Of the 45 swimmers on her roster, she estimated that several of them are still learning the sport.
"Everyone's brand new - I taught swim lessons for two weeks," Bunch said. "I don't have a lot of depth, but we sure are on a learning curve this year. We're teaching everybody all four strokes."
However, Bunch added that if the squad sticks together, it will be in decent shape.
"We're going to have a pretty decent team, just by size alone," she said. "The team is just so cohesive already. They're just a great group of kids. I'm really impressed with them. They look out for each other and cheer for each other. It's going to be a good time this year."