Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) State Championships
The 2021 Arizona High School State Championships, one of the country’s first high school state championships of the academic year, are set to kick off on Friday. Following an altered schedule last year due to the coronavirus, this year’s competition will return to its traditional format, with boys and girls competing during the same sessions.
In the AIA, larger schools, with enrollment generally over 2000 students, compete in division 1, Schools with medium sized enrollment are resigned to play in division 2, and schools with small enrollment compete in division 3.
Division I Preview:
Following their victory last season on both the men’s and women’s sides, Chaparall is once again one of the top teams competing for this year’s titles. However, there is one major obstacle in the way for the Chaparall men, as Brophy Prep will be returning to this year’s competition after a positive COVID test forced the team to pull out of the meet last season. Going into last year’s competition, the Brophy Prep men had won 32 consecutive AIA Division 1 titles, and held 5 top seeds entering the meet. This year, the Brophy Prep boys only hold the top seed in one event via Gabe Gonda in the 100 butterfly. Despite this, they have 5 the #2 seed in 5 other events.
The women’s meet is closer, with Red Mountain holding the top seed in 5 events and Desert Vista holding top seeds in 3 events. The two teams each hold the top seed in a relay event as well, which could play a big role in the way the points sway.
Siblings Jack Luken and Clare Luken are two of the top contenders representing Desert Vista. Jack Luken, a senior, holds the top seeds in both the men’s 500 freestyle and 200 freestyle. Last season, the elder Luken sibling won the 500 freestyle, while placing 3rd in the 200. He has already been significantly faster this year, and is easily the favorite to win both events. Luken’s biggest competition will be Brophy’s Jack Sorenson, who has made major strides in the 200 freestyle as well, dropping over 6 seconds off of his personal best since the end of the pandemic lockdown, bringing it from a 1:49 to a 1:43.
Clare Luken, only a sophomore in high school, has proven to be one of the top swimmers in the state over the past season. Currently, she is seeded 1st in the 200 freestyle and 3rd in the 100 freestyle. She is also slated to participate in Desert Vista’s 200 freestyle and medley relays, giving her the potential to make the podium in those events as well.
Division II Preview:
The boy’s meet appears to be a three-way battle between Desert Mountain, Higley, and Ironwood Ridge High Schools. The three schools currently hold the top seeds in 8 of the events being contested. During the 2020 season, Ironwood finished the highest out of the three teams with a 3rd place overall finish. Last season’s state champions, Verrado High School, may challenge for the title. However, with a team diminished by graduations, the Verrado swimmers would have to post major improvements to win the team title.
Watch for freshman Peter Shih of Desert Mountain, who’s currently the top seed in the 500 freestyle and the 2nd seed in the 200 IM. As only a freshman, he could challenge for multiple state titles and he’s seeded over 4 seconds ahead of the entire field in the 500 free.
On the women’s side, Desert Mountain and Cactus Shadows High Schools appear to be amongst the front-runner for the team title. Desert Mountain, the defending state champion, currently holds the top seed in two events, while the Cactus Shadows women hold top seeds across three events. The meet will also be tight with Salpointe Catholic High School holding multiple top seeds as well. Ultimately, it looks as though the race for first may come down to the depth of the teams overall, where Desert Mountain has proven they can get the job done.
Madelyn Bachmeier from Cactus Shadows currently holds the top seeds in both the 200 IM and 100 backstroke and will be one to watch as she looks to defend the titles she won last season in the same two events.
Division III Preview:
Scottsdale Preparatory Academy won last season’s women’s title, while Phoenix Country Day claimed the top spot on the men’s side. This season it looks as though Phoenix Country could sweep the titles as their men currently hold the top seeds in 4 events and the women are ranked in the top 3 in 9 out of the 11 events offered. Given the team’s apparent depth this season, it seems unlikely for anyone to upset them on either side of the board. However, Scottsdale and Valley Christian will make a strong push on the women’s side, considering they combine for almost all of the remaining top 3 seeds in the meet.
With this, Valley Christian Kyla Norris is set to play a huge role in the team’s quest for a title, as she currently holds top seeds in the women’s 100 free and 100 backstroke. One of the youngest competitors in the whole meet, the 15-year-old could potentially see meet record breaking performances after a breakout long course season this past summer.