The Marana High School swim team has come a long way from its early beginnings as a summer team that used homemade contraptions of styrofoam and rope from The Home Depot as lane markers.
"The kids didn't know how to swim a lick," said head coach Krista Bourget, who started the summer recreational team just a few years ago.
Now in its first year in existence as the official team for Marana High School, the girls' team is boasting a 5-2 record, with one of its losses being to Flowing Wells High School, a 5A team. Marana competes at the 4A level.
"The first meet we won, the coaches were so excited," said Amanda Pargas, the team's only senior. "Everyone thought we were going to be losers."
The team is led by sophomore Lindsey Russenberger, who is ranked within the top 20 in the state in several events.
"I didn't expect us to do this well," Russenberger said.
Russenberger, who has been swimming on year-round teams for about five years, said being on a such a new team was difficult in the beginning.
"We only had 10 kids sign up at first," she said. "It was hard because you're the one that has to psych everyone up."
But in talking with her fellow teammates on her year-round team, Russenberger discovered that Marana is gaining a reputation as a team not to joke about.
"Some of them are really proud of us," she said. "Who would think that Marana would do this well?"
But now, more than halfway through the season with a winning record, the young team has a lot to be proud of.
"It's so awesome to look at us now," agreed Kendra Bourget, a junior swimmer. "It's quite an accomplishment."
Cordi Perry, who is just short of ranking within the top 20 swimmers in the state for the boys' team, said he decided to join the team, despite it being so new, for the rush of competing at the meets.
"You can't really tell what's going on," he said. "Even if you don't win, there's a chance to improve your score."
Perry said the boy's team, which is 1-5, has only five members and often has a hard time competing with other larger teams that can have more than twice as many swimmers. But Perry added that he is proud of what the girls' team has accomplished.
"Our girls' team is doing great," he said. "They've already accomplished more than I expected."
Krista Bourget said the team is known as "the nice, polite team" in the high school swimming community.
"They all cheer for the other teams," she said. "If they see someone from another team lagging behind, they'll cheer them on."
The teammates' bonds with each other runs strong as well.
"This is a good group of kids," said assistant coach Kim Dillon. "They even go bowling together. They definitely motivate each other. They all walk into the meet together and really make a presence."
Krista Bourget and Dillon also said the team isn't out to get first place, just to do their absolute best.
"That's something very special," Bourget said. "They all go out and get the very best time they can. We absolutely push them to the limits."
But Bourget said the success has not come without a few bumps in the road.
Marana High School cannot build a swimming pool for the team because the school is surrounded by pygmy owl habitats, an inconvenience that recently sent the team scrambling to find a pool.
The team had been practicing at the pool at Marana Park, but in light of the cooler weather, the team had to find a heated pool to practice in to keep up their winning momentum.
After being turned down by Continental Ranch, Bourget said she was able to schedule team practices at Heritage Highlands Country Club, which is letting the team use its pool for free.
"The residents all said yes," Krista Bourget said. "They've been very supportive."
Now several residents go to the pool on practice days to watch the team prepare for their next meet, preparation that is somewhat bittersweet for Pargas.
"This is my first year and my last," she said. "To be on a winning team is going to be really hard to let go."