Sept. 29, 2004 - University of Arizona will be the site of one of the largest swim meets Pima County has to offer when four Northwest teams take their elite high school dreams to the Olympic-sized pool at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.
Up to 30 high schools from across Arizona will make their way to the UA Oct. 2 to participate in the Fourth Annual Nike Elite Swim Invitational.
"It's a good chance to see what other schools have got," said Mark Chatigny of competing at the Nike Elite Invite. Chatigny is the head coach of Ironwood Ridge High School's boys and girls swim team, an up and coming squad in the Northwest.
Joining Chatigny and the Nighthawks in representing the Northwest in the pool at the UA will be teams from Canyon del Oro, Marana and Mountain View high schools.
Led by juniors Brian Anderson and Lindsey Miller, Ironwood Ridge is a young team with high expectations in the 4A region. Anderson and Miller anchor their respective Nighthawk squads, with both specializing in the back and freestyle strokes.
Ironwood Ridge will be using the Olympic-sized pool (50-meters by 25-yards) at the Nike Elite to establish season highs and fastest times on the year. Last year at the Elite, many of the Nighthawks' upper-tier swimmers set their personal best time at the UA sponsored event, said Chatigny.
The meet should go a long way in determining the rest of the season for squads looking to identify their team's weaknesses while scouting opponent's strengths.
The Nike Elite isn't reserved solely for schools from the 4A. One of the most underrated teams competing at this year's event will be the Dorados of CDO. Despite being the reigning regional champs, CDO's boys team hasn't been drawing the attention that a defending champ usually receives, said head CDO coach, Chad Reister.
Even though the Dorados graduated only one senior from last year's regional championship squad, schools such as Salpointe Catholic and Sahuaro High School garner most of the attention in the region. Last season, Salpointe and Sahuaro finished two and three respectively behind CDO.
"We're flying under the radar this year," said the second year coach, Reister of his talented group of senior boys. Leading the way for the Dorados are seniors Travis Thames, Darren McDivitt and Makko DeFilippo. Keeping the trio of seniors on their toes is sophomore Justin Wray who consistently competes with the seniors.
The Dorados' girls team is a different situation, however. With its recent victory over Buena, the team's first of the year, the girls squad equaled the amount of wins they had all of last year.
In addition to the Dorados and Nighthawks, a confident Marana squad will be looking to make waves of its own at the invite. The Tigers have seen their numbers and success rise since the program's inception four years ago. With 56 swimmers in its program, 28 girls and 28 boys, Marana believes it can make a strong push for the regional title. Just like CDO, the Tigers think they can surprise some teams when it comes time to compete for the regional title, said head coach Kristin Bourget.
"If Marana High School can win the regional it will be huge for us," said Bourget of her swim program.
The key to success at the Nike sponsored invite for an inexperienced team such as the CDO girls squad, or even an experienced team, may lie in the athlete's ability to drown out the large crowds the event tends to attract. The pressure of performing in front of a sizable crowd is enough to cause some of the younger swimmers to want to bow out of the race, said Chatigny. For the experienced senior, however, tuning out the crowd is just part of the game.
"There's the added pressure of a big meet," said CDO's DeFilippo, who will be aiming to improve on his mid-season times. "But once you're on the blocks you just concentrate on what you have to do."
DeFilippo and the Dorados will get their chance to prove themselves when the Nike Elite Invite kicks off Oct. 2. Warm ups will begin at 8 a.m. at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. The first race will begin two hours later at 10 a.m. With seven lanes dedicated to both boys and girls. Races will be swum simultaneously.