STATE QUALIFIERS: (top) Divers Hali Martin, Destinee Sather, Taylor Bowns and Yasmin Martin; (middle) Ashley Sitz, Destany Rose, Karolin Golding and Saige Ellingford; (front) Justice Brady, Britini Ottley, Ally Martin and coaches Christensen and Boyle. HERALD PHOTOS/Mark Madia
EVANSTON — Lady Red Devils swimming and diving held their end-of-season awards banquet for the 2012 fall season on Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Machine Shop. Senior mom Angie Ellingford opened the festivities, serving as the emcee for the evening. Ellingford thanked all the parents and, in particular, freshman parents, for all their efforts in support of the program and the girls.
“Tonight is all about saying thanks,” Ellingford began. “Girls, as hard as you swim, your parents have cooked meals, made treats for the bus rides and so much more. Many freshman parents were extremely dedicated in getting their daughters to the early morning workouts. We want you to know how much we truly appreciate all you have done.”
Ellingford recognized fellow senior mom, Riki Haukaas, for her tireless dedication to the program, citing the organizational and computer skills of Haukaas as amazing.
Uinta County School District No. 1 was acknowledged for their support, along with the community.
“We are so grateful we were able to keep our pool,” Ellingford told the crowd in attendance, referring to one-time discussions within the district of using the space where the high school pool resides for other purposes, when it was believed repairs might be cost-prohibitive.
Elllingford thanked local media for their coverage, and made special mention of a swim meet being carried live on the air for the first time ever, on KEVA radio, before turning the time over to coaches Casey Boyle and Pam Christensen.
Boyle began by also thanking the parents, reiterating what Ellingford had said. Unlike other sports, swimming and diving follows a two-a-day practice schedule for the entire season, save the final week or so. With most freshman girls not of legal driving age, the burden of getting their daughters to practice, twice a day, fell on the parents, and the coach acknowledged that sacrifice.
The girls were brought to the stage one by one, beginning with the freshman competitors. Boyle had anecdotes and stories for each. He handed out awards and received a handshake, while Christensen got hugs.
• Alexis Weekley: “This is Alexis’ first year of high school swimming, and we’re glad she survived the season.” Boyle noted Weekley swam some of the tougher events, “and came through for us nicely. We are looking forward to seeing you next year, and hope you’ll spend some time in the water between now and then. That would be nice.”
• Shaye Wicks: “Shaye started the season early in open swim offered by Pam. I think she discovered the expertise she gained in those early weeks really benefited her.” Boyle spoke of an aversion to doing flip turns.
“If you’re not going to do flip-turns or breathe coming out of them, maybe we’ll make you a butterflier. It’s amazing how much the freestyle and flip-turn improved after hearing that suggestion. Shaye swam the 500 for us most of the year, and just got better and better and better. I think she dropped two minutes from her time from when she started to the end of the season. We’re looking forward to having her qualify in the event next year.”
• Lexi Sims: Boyle told the crowd a story of Christensen having to literally pull Sims from the water. The Herald had reported Sims having a late start, due to a pinched sciatic nerve. “She was in intense agony, at times to the point of it being paralyzed. Once she got through that, she came a long way in a hurry. In the Southwest District meet, she was swimming in the outside lane in the 100 butterfly, and just came out of nowhere to blow away the rest of the field on what’s known as an ‘outside smoke.’ In the non-qualifier, she swam her lifetime best in the 200 freestyle, and later in the same meet, had her lifetime best in the 500 freestyle. The good news is she can do more than just freestyle. We’re looking forward to seeing her again next year.”
• Yasmin Martin: “Yasmin is a diver. We have a little ways to go, but she did qualify for state, and as a state qualifier is a varsity letter-winner. She came a long way with her forward and onward dives, and scored a huge amount of points. Next year, she’s going to score huge points on her back and reverse one-and-a-halfs. But when you have a freshman who can successfully pull off a forward two-and-a-half, you got something to work with. Yasmin also has the distinction of being the top points scorer of the freshman class.”
• Zoe Thompson: “This is Zoe’s second year swimming for us, and she came a long way in both years. She was primarily a distance swimmer, although she could swim freestyle in any of the events. Like all the other girls, Zoe is willing to do whatever Pam asks. When we can get Zoe to really work, we can make incredible progress. That happened more and more often. We hope to see her get a varsity letter next season. She had a great year for us, swimming in a lot of different spots.”
• Morgan Eugster: “Morgan is one of the hardest working girls on the team, and is also one of the most conscientious. She would seek advice from Pam before and after every race. Morgan will be a state qualifier in the 100 butterfly next year, and perhaps even a finalist, if things go right. And Pam always has a soft spot in her heart for butterfliers.”
• Jordan Johnson: Boyle spoke of Johnson’s versatility. “She swims very well and swims everything, and will swim anything Pam asks her to. When we put together different lineups, it’s certainly an advantage to be able to shuffle the girls around, and Jordan has come through for us wherever she has been asked to swim. We appreciate your efforts and will see you again next year.”
• Emily Hutchinson: “Emily is another who has swum everything for us this year. She worked very hard in practice and counted correctly, doing what she could to get better and better. We saw some really good time drops from Emily. Toward the end of the season, it became apparent she was going to be one of our top breaststrokers. She earned a place in a medley relay, and really did a great job for us there. She came really close to qualifying in the breaststroke. As with most breaststrokers, your next event is the 100 IM. We’re looking forward to her being a state qualifier, and someone who can score points for us in the 100 breaststroke.”
• Justice Brady: “She also swims everything for us, anything we ask. She’s qualified for us in the 100 free, 200 free, and 500 freestyle, and the 100 butterfly.”
Boyle told a story of Brady and teammate Saige Ellingford really pushing each other in a 500 freestyle race, and Brady on pace to shave 15 to 20 seconds off her lifetime best, but stopped at 18 laps instead of 20 at the Gillette Invitational.
“But the good news is, Justice is earning her second varsity letter, and is also the high points scorer of the sophomore class.”
• Jacquelyn Winfield: “Jacquelyn is very steady and mature beyond her years, and we need that among the divers,” Boyle stated, which brought laughter from the crowd. “In all honesty, one of the things we do is select the hardest worker on the team, and I believe this is the first time it has ever gone to a diver. This is her third year and I don’t think she worked any less hard in the previous two. I really enjoy coaching Jacquelyn. She really tries to make all the changes I ask. We’ve really come a long way, and I appreciate that, Jacquelyn.”
• Britini Ottley: “Britini is another one who came an awfully long way this year. We had used her primarily as a distance freestyler, but this year, she really came on in the sprint freestyle races, as well. She was close to qualifying in the 500, less than a second away in the 200, and less than two-tenths of a second off in the 100. Fortunately, Britini was a second under in the 50 freestyle, and is receiving her first varsity letter. Another award Pam and I give out is the most improved, and this year’s award for the most improved swimmer goes to Britini Ottley.”
• Ally Smith: “Ally is a nervous swimmer. …Sometimes she would get so nervous, she would begin to slip through the water.” Boyle explained and demonstrated how hand position might allow a swimmer to cut through water easily, but not really be pulling themselves along with that type of hand alignment, and Smith would do so when nervous.
“Ally was also a qualifier for us in the 50 freestyle, and was less than a second off in the 100 freestyle. I think next year we have a chance for an excellent freestyle relay team, as we had this year, and Ally was a part of it.”
• Destinee Sather: “Destinee had a big year this year, as she did last year when she earned a varsity letter as a sophomore.”
Boyle explained that, going into the state meet last year, Sather was too much inside her head and thinking too hard about her dives, and therefore did not perform to her potential at state. This season, they worked on her being more relaxed. The coach noted the difference between the isolation his divers experience and the group feel to swimmers competing against each other.
“This year she performed much better. Destinee placed 11th at the state championships, and had a really good year, picking up a lot of degree of difficulty. I would argue that she has the best one-and-a-half in pike position in the state, and is hot on the heels of some of the state’s best divers. We’re looking forward to her senior season.”
• Taylor Bowns: “Taylor earned all-conference and all-state honorable mention. And this is her third varsity letter. She needs to gain some weight so she can bend the board a little bit more. She gets an awful lot done for not getting up in the air a whole lot.”
Boyle explained how, in Christensen’s competitive days, sponges were sewn inside her swimsuit. “That was how a drag suit was created back then,” alluding to how a similar strategy might work for Bowns in diving.
“Taylor is one of the top divers in the state, and I think she has her sights set very high for next year. We’re looking forward to another great season. She need some practice on the inward one-and-a-halves, but really has a great shot of being among the state’s best next season.”
• Destany Rose: Boyle pointed out Rose’s evolving hairstyles and color changes.
“Destany qualified in almost everything. The 50 free, the 100 free, the 200 free, the 500 free, the 100 fly, the 100 IM and the 100 backstroke. The only thing she didn’t qualify in is the 100 breaststroke and diving. And all of this she managed with a considerable amount of pain in her shoulders. It was something we fought throughout the entire season. Hopefully, she’ll get some rest and whatever else is required, because I have a feeling she is more than just a state qualifier. She could be a state finalist, if we can get the shoulder situation fixed. She has been a great inspiration, and is truly a great athlete, a great swimmer.”
• Ashley Sitz: “It’s been a pleasure to have Ashley over the last three years. Ashley is an all-conference swimmer in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle. She also earned all-state recognition in the 50-yard freestyle this year. She, like Destany, also qualified in almost everything, and was very close in the 100 breaststroke.”
Evanston had no breaststroke qualifiers, the only event for which they did not.
Boyle spoke of the pentathlon to start the season in Rawlins, and how daunting swimming every stroke in one competition seems to freshmen.
“But if they get to Ashley’s level, it’s not much of a challenge to get through it. Without question, Ashley is our top swimmer, as indicated by the fact that she’s the high points award winner for the junior class.”
• Meghan Haukaas: “Meghan has worked hard the entire four years she’s been with us, and she’s been a pleasure to coach. We used her quite a bit to demonstrate to the other girls how to perform a really good flip-turn. Her great turns made her competitive in the 50-yard freestyle. Meghan is receiving her second varsity letter and, like I said, it’s been a pleasure to have her with us.”
• Saige Ellingford: “Saige has been one of our top distance freestylers for the past four years. Because she qualified so early in the year in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, we experimented a little. Saige was a pretty good breaststroker, so she got to swim that a little more often, and was actually close to qualifying. She did a great job for us in the 200 and 500 every time out, and has qualified for state the last two years. She met the qualifying time of 6:20 or 6:18 last season, but this season reached her goal of breaking six minutes, which is really quite an accomplishment. She’s been a great leader, in particular, this season, and it was obvious she was going to be one of our leaders in her senior season.”
• Hali Martin: “This is Hali’s fourth varsity letter. She’s qualified for state every year as a diver, three years scoring at state. She’s had some really good meets, and was particularly hot in the conference meet this year. She placed seventh at the state championships this year. I’d like to say that all of our divers buckled down, increased the degree of difficulty they faced in their dives this year, and I think that Hali’s leadership really had a lot to do with that. She took the lead on attempting a forward two-and-a-half, and by the end of the year our divers had that in their arsenal, among the other difficult dives they learned. With the amount of work she put in, Hali is such a better diver this year than she was last year. She had a great year. Hali’s scoring well at conference and state really helped us. And I think it’s the first time I can remember having a senior diver be our high points senior leader.”
• Karolin Golding: Karolin’s been great to have the last four years. Very sensible, and a very good leader as a senior, leading by example. Karolin qualified for state in the 50-, 100-, 200- and 500-yard freestyle. The 500-yard freestyle has been her best event the past two years, and that takes a lot of conditioning. We got off too kind of a slow start this year, with her wisdom teeth extraction, but once she was able to get going, things went really well. She would always swim whatever we asked her to swim.”
The coach spoke of the Lady Red Devils relay teams, and Golding’s inclusion.
“Karolin, Ashley, Destany and Justice formed our 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams, and this is the first time in a number of years our 400 freestyle relay team broke four minutes. Karolin was a big part of that.”
Boyle recognized Dakota Bird for his efforts, “because for some reason he hangs out at the pool all the time,” and thanked him for putting together the team’s lane lines, “and was just a big help all around.”
The four seniors then took the stage, as is tradition, to hand out some comical team awards, representative of roles played, past experiences and inside jokes among the team. Gifts were given to coaches Boyle and Christensen.
The underclassmen then had some fun awarding the seniors with gifts.
Ellingford retook the stage and gave praise and had special gifts for the seniors. Riki Haukaas read a message of thanks and congratulations from principal Doug Rigby, and also thanked Ellingford for everything she has given.
Ellingford announced principal Merle Lester was able to see the team at state, the first time she remembers having a principal present.
“It was really fun to have him there,” she said. “Swimming has such a unique culture all its own, and I think he came away with an enhanced appreciation for swimmers and their hard work and dedication.”
Kim Fearn Pezeshki, a former Lady Red Devils state champion diver, and mother of Yasmin and Hali Martin, was thanked for all of her wonderful photographic and multimedia work, paring down 1,500 pictures to 800 to fit on individual flash drives, as gifts for team members. The four seniors were presented with nice luggage and allowed to keep their competition suits.
Parents were again thanked, making special mention their fundraising efforts. Saige Ellingford closed out the festivities, representing the seniors, with heartfelt thanks to their parents coaches and all who supported Lady Red Devils swimming and diving.