Swimmers head toward finals

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Swimmers dive into the pool at Eastern Arizona College during their swim meet Friday night. The event was the last regular-season meet with finals taking place at Safford Pool on Saturday, July 8.

By Jon Johnson


THATCHER – In the blink of an eye, swimmers who didn’t know the difference between butterfly and breaststroke are now preparing for finals as the regular Gila Valley swim season concluded Friday night. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Racers zip through the water at EAC’s pool, Friday.

Thatcher hosted Pima on Friday, and Morenci hosted Safford. At the Thatcher meet, swimmers gleamed with pride as they emphatically informed their parents of how much their times improved over the previous two weeks. The Gila Valley’s swim season is barely more than one month long as the local teams, Safford, Morenci, Thatcher and Pima, all face each other once during the regular season. The times from those swims are then calculated and the top eight racers in each event are invited to compete in finals, which will be held at Safford Pool on Saturday, July 8, starting at 8 a.m.. Those who finish in the top three at finals receive a medal for their accomplishment.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Pima swimmer Miley Preston catches her breath while racing in the breaststroke.

Pima Flippers swim team mother Angela Paull spoke to Gila Valley Central about the improvement she has seen in her swimmers, especially her daughter, Olivia.

“Her first meet she really didn’t know how to do butterfly and this last meet she not only got first but she got first by a lot,” Angela Paull said. “It’s amazing.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Pima swimmer Brittlee Peterson competes in the butterfly.

Olivia Paull credited her improvement to practice and the assistance of neighbors who helped on stroke technique.

While credit on swimmers’ improvement is definitely due to the hard work they put in the pool, Brian Paull said that the swimmers benefit from parents who enable their passion for the pool.

“I work, (so) she (Angela) is the one who does all the hard work out here,” Brian Paull said. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Ambrosia Johnson shows her determination during the butterfly race.

With such a short swim season, places held by some early in the season could change come finals as swimmers continue to improve.

“We’re looking forward another couple weeks of practice to hone up our skills and wait to figure out who the top eight are,” said Pima head coach Natalie Schlittenhardt.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Pima swimmer Josie Peterson takes a breath during a butterfly race.

Pima is allowing every swimmer to continue to practice while they find out who will compete in finals and then will focus on those swimmers who have a slot at finals. Additionally, relay events are held at finals and a swimmer who might not have made the top eight in a single stroke could still have a spot on a relay team. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Pima swimmer Avalon Johnson shows off the skills that led her to first place in the 6-under butterfly.

Schlittenhardt said she is looking forward to the event and that has a good feeling her swimmers will excel in the finals competition.

“We’re ready to go,” she said. “We have a great shot. We have some great swimmers.”

Thatcher head coach Lori Christensen was unavailable for comment.