By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
The 3A State Championship Meet for swimming was an historic event for Moapa Valley High School athletes and fans. For the first time in school history, a Pirate Swim team took home a medal from a State Championship meet.
For a program that had never taken a medal, the Pirates’ best hope was to pull it off in their Boys’ 400 yard freestyle relay. The relay team of Tyler Holmes, Zane Lamping, Chase LaCroix, and Nathaniel Thompson – all seniors in their final year of swimming under a Pirate logo – made it happen.
But they had their work cut out for them. The team stood right on the cusp in the rankings, with Chaparral between them and a top spot in the event.
The Pirates met the challenge. They leapfrogged over the Chaparral Cowboys in an upset to take a third place finish and a spot on the winners podium. The team ended with a time of 3:40.04. When the dust had cleared, the Cowboys stood no more than a second and a half behind the Pirates.
That slim margin was all it took for the Pirate swimming program to reach a pedestal it had never seen before. For the first time in program history, Moapa claimed a state medal!
“It’s hard to find words!” said Pirate Head Coach Erinn Thompson. “It was exhilarating; it really was. I’ve worked with all of these boys for four years and to see them develop and grow and mature is just incredible. I am so blessed to be able to coach them.”
Every one of the Pirate relay teams had qualified for the State meet. But like the Boys’ 400 team, each one needed to make a jump in the standings in order to get where they needed to be for a top three finish and a spot on the podium. That proved difficult.
For the girls team, it was going to take a pretty insurmountable jump. Despite both the 200 yard freestyle and 200 yard medley girls teams taking eighth place, they still made significant jumps in times and peaked at the right moment.
The girls 400 yard freestyle relay took seventh, with their best placement of the afternoon.
But while the girls didn’t get to the final podium like they’d hoped, they still set a different sort of benchmark. The Pirate Girls’ Swim team took home the plaque as Nevada’s Academic State champions.
This distinction is awarded to the team with the best overall GPA. With three relay teams in the state meet, and an Academic state championship, the versatility of the athletes is easy to take note of.
Thompson praised her girls. “It just shows that they are dedicated athletes,” she said. “At the beginning of the season I tell them that if they can’t maintain their grades, I can’t use them. That’s always first and foremost. So having athletes that are exceptional at their sport and academics is incredible. It takes serious dedication.”
Thompson continued her praise for her female swimmers, adding, “Even though they didn’t get a medal, every one of them improved their time. In swim, that’s everything. There should be no disappointment because they all worked so hard.”
On the boys’ side, their 200 yard events were also right on the bubble of a potential medal. In the 200 yard medley relay, the boys took seventh, with a time of roughly two minutes flat. In the 200 yard freestyle relay, the Pirates were as close as could be to the podium. They took home a fourth place finish, and stood two seconds behind a third place medal.
The team is losing many of the members of this talented groupto graduation. These include all four senior boys swimmers in that third place relay team as well as senior girls Hailee Heiselbetz and Alexis Sawyer. However, Thompson credited the hard work this class of athletes put in.
“It all paid off with what they were able to achieve,” Thompson said. “It says a lot because we are a small school going against kids that swim year round. It’s a night and day difference and for us to compete at this level is just phenomenal.”
Looking ahead to the future of the program, Thompson has high hopes but also a sense of realism. “I think next year is going to be a rebuilding year,” she said. “It all depends on who is returning and who we will be getting. But some of these athletes are going to have to step it up and show to the new ones what we need to do to get back there.”
While it is both ironic and surprising that Pirate swimmers faced such a drought from the podium, this year signified a leap in the right direction. Twelve years of dedication to a still relatively new sport at the school has paid off, and down the road this could be seen as a pivotal season in which the team was sent upward to even higher goals.