They did it again: Sea Lions win 12th straight district championship

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The 2018 Sea Lions. Photo by Apuron Photography

  The Central Arizona League Championship Swim Meet was held at the Florence Aquatic Center on Saturday, July 14.  The overall team scores were as follows:

• 1st place–Sea Lions with 976 points

• 2nd place–Coolidge Dolphins with 793 points

• 3rd place–Parkside Piranhas with 768 points

• 4th place–San Tan Valley Barracudas with 363 points

• 5th place–Globe Piranhas with 315 points

• 6th place–Florence Sharks with 67 points

• 7th place–Eloy Otters with 58 points

  This is the twelfth consecutive year that the Sea Lions have won the League Championship Meet.  Every Sea Lion Swimmer earned points for the team.  Every Sea Lions Swimmer completed all their races legally – there were no disqualifications. 

  One of the most fundamental goals of the Sea Lions team is for swimmers to keep improving. Swimmers had many personal best times.  The following 18 Sea Lions Swimmers had personal best times in every race they swam at the Meet:  Jessica Rouse, Athan Riekofski, Cooper Dale, Arianna Ervin, Juliana Ramirez, Pedro Young, Martin Madrid, Briana Castellanos, Mia Dale, Tabitha Kellam, Ben Fister, Robert Sanz-Anton, Hunter Hill, Riley Stewart, AJ Lopez, Aubrey Bridges, Darien Apuron, and Andres Valenzuela.

  Several outstanding performances had the coaches smiling.  In the 7-8 Girls age group, Annie Nemons and Jocelyn Hudson teamed up to win 5 (out of 6) individual events and both relays.  Both girls had to swim two legs on both relays.  The Relays were very close but both times, the Sea Lions found a way to win.

  First year swimmer, ten year old Athan Riekofski, showed just how far a swimmer can come in the first year with consistent practice and hard work.  He quickly learned all 4 racing strokes, along with the racing start and turns.  Athan finished off the season with huge time improvements in his Butterfly (26 Seconds) and Breaststroke (13 seconds) events.  The coaches had more to smile about when they saw Athan achieved another person best time in the Backstroke which was good enough to earn 6th place.  He swam in two relays with Cooper Dale – both boys need to swim two legs in the relays. They finished 5th in the Medley Relay and 4th in the Freestyle Relay, dropping dozens of seconds in each.    

  Juliana Ramirez won three individual events in the 11-12 age group.  What made the coaches smile was the fact that she is only 11 years old, and in most cases was not the number 1 seed.  Her swims in both the 100 IM  and 100 Free to hold off the fastest seed in the final yards sent the message that she has the endurance to beat anyone in the League.  She swam 4 seconds faster than she ever did before to win both those races.  In the 50 Butterfly she swam a technically excellent race that left everyone else battling for 2nd place.

  In the championship meet format, each swimmer is limited to 3 individual events and 2 relays.   The following Sea Lion Swimmers won all five of the races that they swam:   Jocelyn Hudson, Joey Castellanos, Tabitha Kellam, Evan Apuron, Riley Stewart, and Darien Apuron.

League Record Breakers! Photo by Apuron Photography

  Sea Lion Swimmers broke 16 League Championship Meet Records. Since the championship brings the best swimmers from all the teams in the League, it is a tremendous achievement to break a Championship Meet Record.  Sea Lion Swimmers who set new Championship Meet Records include:  Rianna Estrada, Tabitha Kellam, AJ Lopez, Evan Apuron, Riley Stewart, Star Chavez, Jessi Rice and Darien Apuron.  One of the oldest records, the 15-18 Girls Medley Relay previously held by Maricopa Barricudas (2002), was broken by the team of Darien Apuron, Star Chavez and Jessi Rice with a time of 2:14.09.  Darien also broke records in all three of her individual events – 200 IM 2:27.95 (previously held by Baylee Hodge of Coolidge, 2014), 100 Back 1:06.17 (previously held by Bianca Silva of Parkside, 2013) and 100 Free 1:00.15 (previously held by Meghan Cook of the Sea Lions, 2011).

  In the 13-14 Boys, Riley Stewart broke the 100 Backstroke Record with a time of 1:00.04 (previously held by Will Newman of the Sea Lions, 2014),  the 100 Breaststroke 1:07.57 (previously held by Evan Apuron of the Sea Lions, 2017), and bettered his own record in the 100 Freestyle with a time of 51.96.  Evan Apuron broke the 50 Freestyle record with a time of 22.66 (previously held by Adriel Huerta of San Tan Valley, 2011) and bettered his own league records in the 200 IM  (2:08.64) and  the 100 Fly (54.51).  Evan and Riley were joined by AJ Lopez in the relays to set incredibly fast records in the  Medley Relay (1:53.08) and Free Relay (1:39.62). Both relay times would hold up well at most High School competitions.

  In the 13-14 Girls Tabitha Kellam broke 3 individual records – 100 Butterfly 1:02.59 (previously held by Darien Apuron of the Sea Lions, 2015), 100 Back 1:06.17 (previously held by Darien Apuron of the Sea Lions 2016), and bettered her own record in the 100 Free with a time of 57.50.  Tabitha was joined by Rianna Estrada in the Medley Relay to better the record they set in 2017 with a time of 2:13.75. 

  Thirteen Sea Lion Team Records were broken at the meet.  Rianna Estrada, Tabitha Kellam, AJ Lopez, Evan Apuron, Riley Stewart, Star Chavez, Jessi Rice, and Darien Apuron all set new team records.

  With seven teams and over 200 swimmers, any finish in the top 8 places is an impressive achievement.  All 36 Sea Lions had top 8 finishes at the Championship:

Damian Marquez, 6, (6th Fly, 4th Back, 4th Breast)

Annie Nemans, 7, (4th Fly, 1st Breast, 1st Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st  Free Relay);

Jocelyn Hudson, 8, (1st IM, 1st Back, 1st 50 Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Jessica Rouse, 10, (3rd IM, 3rd Back, 5th Breast, 2nd Medley Relay, 3rd Free Relay);

Cooper Dale, 10, (2nd IM, 1st Breast, 4th Free, 5th Medley Relay, 4th Free Relay);

Athan Riekofski, 10, (6th Back, 5th Medley Relay, 4th Free Relay)

Arianna Ervin, 11, (8th Back, 7th  Free, 2nd Medley Relay, 3rd Free Relay);

Juliana Ramirez, 11, (1st IM, 1st Fly, 1st 100 Free, 2nd Medley Relay, 3rd Free Relay);

Martin Madrid, 11, (5th IM, 4th Back, 4th Breast, 4th Medley Relay, 4th Free Relay);

Pedro Young, 11, (7th Back, 5th 100 Free, 7th 50 Free, 4th Medley Relay, 4th Free Relay);

John Smallhouse, 11, (2nd 100 Free, 2nd Breast, 3rd Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st  Free Relay);

Nevaeh Derrick, 12, (3rd Back, 8th Breast, 5th Free, 2nd Medley Relay, 3rd Free Relay);

Joey Castellanos, 12, (1st Fly, 1st Back, 1st 50 Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Vicente Curry, 12, (6th IM, 5th Fly, 3rd Breast, 4th Medley Relay, 4th Free Relay);

Ethan Kellam, 12, (2nd IM, 2nd Fly, 1st 100 Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Mason Stewart, 12, (1st IM, 1st Breast, 2nd Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Briana Castellanos, 13, (3rd Fly, 2nd 100 Free, 1st Free, 2nd Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Mia Dale, 13, (3rd IM, 2nd Fly, 4th Breast, 2nd Medley Relay, 2nd  Free Relay);

Ben Fister, 13, (2nd Fly, 3rd 100 Free, 2nd 50 Free, 2nd Medley Relay, 2nd  Free Relay);

Robert Sanz-Anton, 13, (4th IM, 6th Fly, 5th Breast, 2nd Medley Relay, 2nd Free Relay);

Rianna Estrada, 14, (1st IM, 2nd Breast, 1st Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Tabitha Kellam, 14, (1st Fly, 1st Back, 1st 100 Free, 1st Free Relay, 1st Medley Relay);

Hannah Smallhouse, 14, (2nd IM, 2nd  Back, 3rd Breast, 2nd Medley Relay, 2nd Free Relay);

AJ Lopez, 14, (2nd Back, 2nd 100 Free, 2nd Breast, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Riley Stewart, 14, (1st Back, 1st 100 Free, 1st  Breast, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Hunter Hill, 14, (3rd IM, 3rd Back, 5th Free, 2nd Medley Relay, 2nd Free Relay);

Evan Apuron, 15, (1st IM, 1st Fly, 1st Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Aubrey Bridges, 15, (4th IM, 4th Fly, 7th Free, 4th Medley Relay, 4th Free Relay);

Star Chavez, 15, (4th 100 Free, 1st Breast, 4th Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay);

Alyssa Riekofski, 15, (6th Back, 5th Breast, 8th Free, 4th Medley Relay, 4th Free Relay);

BaiLee Hill, 16, (3rd IM, 5th Fly, 4th Back, 4th Medley Relay, 4th Free Relay);

Nate Fister, 16, (4th Back, 4th 100 Free, 4th Free, 4th Medley Relay, 3rd Free Relay);

Andres Valenzuela, 16, (1st IM, 2nd Fly, 1st Breast, 4th Medley Relay, 3rd Free Relay);

Darien Apuron, 17, (1st IM, 1st Back, 1st 100 Free, 1st Free Relay, 1st Medley Relay);

Daniel Garcia, 17, (8th  Fly, 8th 100 Free, 7th Free, 4th Medley Relay, 3rd Free Relay);

Jessi Rice, 18, (3rd Back, 7th 100 Free, 3rd  Free, 1st Medley Relay, 1st Free Relay).

  With the incredible number of best times, outstanding races, Sea Lions Team Records and Central Arizona League Records set at the Meet, the coaches had a tough choice selecting one swimmer to be Beast of the Week.   Hunter Hill was named Beast of the Week for his superb week of practice and exceptional time drops at the Championship.  While many swimmers had times improvements that amount to fractions of seconds or even a second or two, Hunter showed us what a Beast does, he dropped 17 seconds in the 200 IM, 8 seconds in the 100 Backstroke, and over 2 full seconds in the 50 Free.  Hunter’s Beastly results had him wearing 4 medals at the end of the meet. 

  The Sea Lions Swim Team is finished with competition in the Central Arizona Swim League for the summer season, but will compete in several open meets over the next few months.

  There is still time to join the team – contact Alex or Wendy Gort at 896-2190, stop by the Mammoth between 4 and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or check sealionsswimteam.com for more information.

Staff (4924 Posts)

There are news or informational items frequently written by staff or submitted to the Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner, Superior Sun, Pinal Nugget or Oracle Towne Crier for inclusion in our print or digital products. These items are not credited with an author.


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