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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest swimmers return to the pool stronger, faster

Dec 01, 2023 12:25PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High’s Maria Magalhaes wins the 200 free in 2:09.3, eight seconds ahead of the nearest competitor, in the dual meet against Brighton High on Nov. 9. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

After a gap year from swimming competitively because of the demands in the Canyons School District’s cosmetology program, senior Oakley Young returned to the pool to swim alongside her teammates.

She not only met some new faces on the team, including junior Maria Magalhaes who likely will lead the Huskies this season, but also a new coach. Elizabeth Drake is in her second year and assistant coach Zach Bulloch is new this year after former assistant swim coach Robert “Tom” Huddlestone retired after 39 seasons.

“Coach Drake is awesome; she’s super understanding,” Young said. “It’s amazing to be back with the team. When I was swimming by myself, I didn’t have the competitiveness with the people in the lane so being back with them, makes it 10 times better.”

Young, who has swum competitively since she was eight years old, was a strong contributor in butterfly and freestyle as an underclassman. As a sophomore, she medaled in the 100 butterfly at region. Now, she wants to swim breaststroke.

“When I was younger, that was my stroke, but I had a knee injury that prevented me from swimming it for a year and a half. I want to get back into that, but I’ll see where Drake puts me,” she said.

In a meet against Jordan High, Nov. 9, Young swam the individual medley – a race where she showed her mastery of each stroke, but as swimmers know, breaststrokers may have an edge.

“I now swim all the strokes and like all the members on the team, I’m aiming to get faster,” said Young, who serves as one of the team’s captains and wants to continue swimming on a club team at college. “We have a bunch of strong girls this year. I’m super excited for that and for the progression of the team that we’ve had. It’s incredible.” 

After swimming in just a couple meets, Hillcrest already has 16 state qualifying times, including four of its six relays. Those swimmers who are in the fastest 32 spots, or top 16 in relays, automatically advance to state while others swimmers could qualify at the region meet. 

“We’ve gotten faster and deeper,” Drake said. “It’s a strong team.”

Drake said Magalhaes, an international exchange student, will make a big impact for the Huskies.

“She’s my fastest girl by a landslide,” Drake said. “She has been swimming with her high school and club team in Brazil. She’s the fastest girl in every stroke, but we need her the most in fly. We also may swim her in the 100 and 200 free.”

In time trials, she swam a 0:57 100 free. Her fastest 200 free clocks in at 2:03.

“It’s early in the season, but so far, she hasn’t had anyone to push her because she was way ahead of the competition,” Drake said.

Freshman Cora McIllece, who has swum for a club team in middle school, also should be a force for the Huskies. Specializing in 500 free, she is swimming under six minutes.

“She likes that race. I have put her in the backstroke a couple times; she’s pretty good at it,” Drake said.

Joining those two are returning juniors Lucy McDonough and Maddie Peterson, who is the other girls’ team captain.

“Maddie likely is going to swim backstroke on our medley relay and Lucy is our breaststroker,” Drake said, adding that Magalhaes will swim fly and McIllece, the free leg. “The legs are open for the taking. Anytime somebody can beat someone else’s time, then they’ll be swimming it.” 

Junior Olivia Hermanson and sophomore Kennedy Pew also are expected to be top swimmers for the team.

On the boys team, senior Scott Person and juniors Cody Su and Sean Wager are the captains. Person and Wager will likely swim 100 back and 200 free while Su will swim the fly. 

Drake sees a strong number of breaststrokers on the team, led by junior Thomas Powers, who swam a 1:03.9 at state last year. Behind him, is sophomore Benny Bridge and freshman Andrew Shupe, coming in at 1:09 and 1:10, respectively.

In the 500 free, Drake is looking to see improvement from sophomore Daniel Emett.

“He swam in region for the first time and had a 5:44. He’s already swam a 5:28 this season. He was chasing somebody quick and that helps him grab some time. So also went under two minutes on his 200 free,” she said.

Junior Jacob An is a swimmer she knows she can put in any race and he will do well.

“He doesn’t have a favorite so he swims wherever he’s needed for the team. He’s versatile and strong,” Drake said. 

Sophomore Alex Skorut is the team’s lead backstroker. He swam a 57.6 at state last season for the Huskies.

“He’s the most self-motivated on my team. Every time he gets in the pool, he wants to do his best every time. He watches his own videos and finds ways to improve. He says, ‘How does this look? I tried to do this; do you think it’s faster?’ He does a lot of self-reflection and he’s always trying to improve, which is cool,” she said.

The team is practicing in the mornings and evenings at Dimple Dell Recreation Center as their “home” pool at Gene Fullmer Recreation Center is undergoing renovations. 

Drake said she works with swimmers during the morning practices on their stroke technique as well as starts and turns. One member who is new to competitive swimming, Cash Adams, is taking advantage of those practices.

“In October’s time trial, he swam 43 seconds in his 50 free and he’s already dropped to a 35. That’s because he comes to every single practice. He even goes to the pool and practices on his own time. I’ve spent lots of one-on-one time with him because at first, he couldn’t dive. So, I spent lots of time getting him competent enough to go headfirst off the block. Then, I taught him how to do a flip turn. He’s still mastering the technique, but he’s getting faster because of all the time he’s putting in,” she said.

Looking at the region competition, Drake sees “our biggest competition is definitely Murray and Park City.”

They were slated to face a deep Murray High squad Nov. 30, followed by a fast Park City High team Dec. 7 at Dimple Dell.

The region 10 meet is set for Jan. 27 at Wasatch Aquatic Center in Heber, with the 4A state meet Feb. 16-17 at Brigham Young University in Provo.

“We’re going to have some good competition,” she said. “I’ve looked at state times from last year and there were some good times. I’m seeing that our team gets third at region. I would be ecstatic, on cloud nine, if we went higher.” λ