By Paul Meadors
When 3,000 people converge from up and down the state for a high school athletic event, to use a popular Ron Burgundy phrase; “It’s kind of a big deal.”
And that might be the understatement of the year as the inaugural CIF State Swimming and Diving Championships were held May 22-23 at the Clovis Olympic Swim Complex at Clovis West High School to massive accolades and impressive accomplishments.
But among the best of the best and with spectators watching on baited breath, the most electric moment was reserved for local favorites Seth Nabors, Ryan McVicars, Zach Koch and Graham Hauss of Clovis High who made the biggest splash of all, taking gold in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:23.60.
After the first two legs, the Cougar-foursome found themselves in fourth position. Swimming the third leg Koch brought them into second place, with Hauss anxiously waiting his turn as the anchor.
“Just before I was going to jump in adrenaline was hitting me like crazy,” said Hauss, still shaking and with emotion after the race. “I knew I could hold it and get first. I was so ready to finish it off.”
And finish in a fury he did with a split of 20.68. With a fist-pump into the water after touching the wall, Hauss’ knew he and his teammates accomplished something special, and in front of a home crowd no less.
“When I saw my time I don’t think I’ve ever gone that fast,” added Hauss.
In the oh-so-close category were the Clovis West girls 200 free relay team consisting of sisters Caitlyn and Sarah Snyder, Skylar Elkington and Samantha Giannetta. After the best time in the preliminary races, they fell short in reaching gold and settled with silver with a time of 1:34.01.
An hour after the race the girls couldn’t help but alternate between disappointment and excitement.
“To be second in the state is really exciting but then you’re only a little off from being first,” said Sarah Snyder, the junior to Sarah’s freshman. “That amount of time is one breath, or one kick off the wall.”
Actually it was 0.13 seconds. But think of this – their time was good enough for sixth best in the nation.
And the girls are hungry to get back into the water – they’re practicing two days later on a Monday morning. In fact, they are so focused they made plans to meet at the same concrete slab under a tent next year, this time sporting that precious gold.
Hosting such a spectacle is quite an undertaking and Clovis Unified and the staff of Clovis West High School put on a first-class event. Clovis West head swimming coach Adam Reid heard many positive comments, especially promising being its first year.
“There were numerous compliments from coaches from all over the state saying it was the best run high school meet they have ever been to,” said Reid. “Some parents told me they overheard spectators saying it was like Nationals. That was the goal, to take a high school championship meet and make it feel like Nationals.”
There was definitely an air of Olympic-ness over the two-day event with each of the finals competitors ushered to their starting blocks in a line, led by a sign indicating the event. All types of music from Guns N’ Roses to Led Zepplin to Bruno Mars could be heard blasting from the loudspeakers, no doubt injecting an extra rush of adrenaline for the swimmers.
For Clovis North’s Carson Ivancovich the entire experience was one he’ll soon not forget.
“It’s nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Ivancovich who placed seventh in the 100 free. “It’s special getting your name read before you swim and all the fans. It gets you ready and pumped up.”
Buchanan’s Connor Cain was up bright and early on Saturday morning, participating in the diving finals and making a great showing with a third place finish despite being seeded eighth.
His motivation went beyond his own recognition.
“I wanted to place well not only for myself, but also for my parents and my coaches, Lindsay Crawford and Teresa Hall,” said the senior who’s attending Utah on scholarship. “They all have seen me through this crazy journey and I really wanted them to feel like their hard work has paid off in addition to my hard work.”
And the hard work will continue for those dedicated swimmers and divers whose goal next year is identical – to meet at the same place, with the same excitement, and dreams of gold.