The energy was palpable inside the Wes Deist Aquatic Center during Friday’s district swim meet. Area athletes took to the pool to claim 4A and 5A District 5/6 championships, and the right to swim in the big pool in Boise at this week’s Idaho State Championship Swim Meet.

The state championship meet is Friday and Saturday at the Boise YMCA.

It has been two years since the last in-person State Meet. Due to COVID-19, last year’s meet was replaced with a virtual meet. State officials gathered times from district championship meets, then compared times to award winners. It was the swimming equivalent of using a scrimmage game to determine a football championship.

In Friday’s 5A meet, two-time defending district girls champ Thunder Ridge, started strong with a narrow win in the 200-yard medley relay over the favored Rigby with a time that seeded them in the top eight going into this week’s meet. Thunder Ridge girls would go on to win three more races, with six girls qualifying for state. Titan junior Harlie Taylor took first in two individual events, seeding her fifth in Idaho in the 200-yard freestyle and fourth in the 100-yard butterfly.

But Taylor and team were no match for the depth of talent of the Rigby Trojans, who claimed the girls’ 5A District 5/6 title.

“It feels really good,” said Trojan junior Kaylee Barlow, whose speedy freestyle qualified her for two individual events and one relay. “When we found out that we won the meet, it was a big surprise because Thunder Ridge is a big competitor, as is Idaho Falls.”

In all, Rigby girls qualified five individual athletes plus a relay team for the state meet.

“My team and I are really excited because of all the hard work we put in to get to this moment,” Barlow said.

The excitement of the girls’ events were matched only by the intensity of the boys competition. In a close contest against Idaho Falls, the Thunder Ridge boys put up a time that ranks them first in Idaho in the 200-yard medley relay. In the end, the Tigers took the boys’ 5A District 5/6 title, but not until the Titans won six events and qualified five swimmers for state. Titan Holton Bundy took home four golds, the most of any athlete at the meet. Bundy’s breaststroke is ranked second in Idaho.

“I was really disappointed that I didn’t get to race anyone from across the state all year,” Bundy said about last year’s virtual meet. “This year is going to be fun. It will be the first time in two years that I will get to race someone (in the breaststroke) that is even in the same wheelhouse as me.”

Bundy will be joined in the pool by friend and competitor Tiger Ethan Grimes. Grimes and Bundy battled for first in the individual medley, with Bundy winning by less than two seconds. Grimes was the clear leader in the 100-yard backstroke, putting up an impressive 53.39-second time, seeding him first in the event going into this week. In all, seven Tigers qualified for individual events this week.

In the 4A meet, the Grizzlies were the clear winners, taking home both the boys’ and girls’ 4A titles. With seven individual state-qualifying girls and six boys, they were unmatched in the pool. Grizzly Gavin Dustin swam an impressive time in both the 200 and 500-yard freestyle.

“I have reset the state record in the 200 both years so far, and I really want to do it again,” Dustin said.

About the meet being live this year, he said, “It is just more exciting. You feel it more in the pool. When you have people next to you, they make you go faster-they push you.”

Swimmers will face off in person this weekend, but the meets will still have something missing—the Boise YMCA is limiting spectators, which means parents and classmates won’t be there to cheer for their swimmers. 

 

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