The 8 and Under State Championship Swim Meet was held March 15-16 at the Anthem Community Center in Anthem, Ariz. Five boys from the San Manuel Sea Lions competed in the meet. Ethan Kellam, Mason Stewart, Rocky Andrade, Joey Castellanos, and Ben Fister (all 8 years old) qualified for the maximum number of individual events for the meet. The most exciting fact was that the Sea Lions would have both a Medley and Free Relay at the meet and both would be seeded among the best in the fast heat.
The meet started with the Medley Relay on Saturday. In the heat prior to the fast heat, two teams set very fast times, beating the best seed times, and making it clear that it would be a battle for the Sea Lions just to get on the podium. Minutes later, Joey Castellanos led out the Backstroke leg of the Medley Relay followed by Mason Stewart swimming the Breaststroke. Rocky Andrade had an incredible swim in the Butterfly leg and Ethan Kellam brought it home swimming Freestyle. All swimmers swam personal best times on each leg of the relay dropping more than 4 seconds overall to become State Champions in the Boys 8 and Under Medley Relay. Coach Alex Gort beamed with pride over the relay win. “We have a relay that does not have a weak link,” said Gort. “What a thrill to win against the best teams in Arizona like Ford Aquatics, Scottsdale Aquatics, Swim Neptune, and Westside Silver Fins. I am so proud of these boys.”
After the Medley Relay, swimmers competed in individual events including the 100 Freestyle, 25 Fly, 50 Breast, 25 Free, and 50 Back. Andrade finished in the top 16 in four events (4th-100 Free, 4th-25 Fly, 10th-25 Free, and 19th-50 Back). Stewart finished eighth in the 50 Breaststroke. Kellam finished ninth in the 25 Butterfly and 12th in the 50 Backstroke. Castellanos’s top individual finish was 17th in the 25 Butterfly, and Fisters’s was 18th in the 25 Butterfly.
On Sunday, the first event was the Freestyle Relay. The Sea Lions were excited about their chances. They had the fastest seed time and had won the Medley Relay. The order went Andrade, Stewart, Kellam, and Fister, each swimming one length of the pool. As the race unfolded, it became evident that the team from Scottsdale Aquatics Club would win and it would be a three way battle for the other two spots on the podium. It would come down to an exciting finish, with the Sea Lions finding themselves finishing fourth just missing the podium by 3 hundredths of a second.
After the Free Relay, the swimmers competed in the 100 Individual Medley (IM), 25 Back, 50 Freestyle, 50 Butterfly, and 25 Breaststroke. Both Stewart and Andrade had three top 16 finishes. Stewart finished seventh in the 25 Breaststroke, and had a couple of 11th place finishes in the 100 IM and 25 Back. Andrade finished 11th in the 50 Freestyle, 14th in the 25 Backstroke, and 16th in the 100 IM. Castellanos finished 15th in the 25 Backstroke to earn his first individual ribbon at the meet. Kellam’s best finish on Sunday was 18th place in the 100 IM, and Fister’s best finish was 20th in the 50 Freestyle.
Overall swimmers showed great improvements at the meet and had fun while competing. The Sea Lions swim team has started registration for the summer season and practice is scheduled to begin on April 9. Additional information can be obtained by contacting Coach Alex Gort at 896-2190.