Sandpipers swim to state title despite practice hiccups

They may not have had their home pool available for training, but it didn’t show in their performances.

The Clark County Sandpipers of Nevada swim team brought home the state championship title recently despite hiccups in training. The top trophy is on display at the Desert Breeze Aquatic Center, 8275 Spring Mountain Road. This is the second consecutive year the Sandpipers have taken the top honor.

Head coach Ron Aitken said it felt great to win.

"We were concerned going in that it was going to be really tight … we weren’t sure (of the outcome) at all through the whole weekend," he said. "We just knew we had to keep swimming fast and placing high to score the points. We know anything is possible. We were 400 points behind in 2004, and we did what we had to do to win. There were 150 events, and when we divide it out between 700 swimmers, it can go either way … so we didn’t take anything for granted, we just kept pushing through."

He said that by the last day, he was pretty sure they were going to win.

The swim team competed Feb. 18-21 in Carson City and racked up 7,516.5 points to defend its title. The second-place team was Boulder City/Henderson, which achieved a combined 6,937.5 points.

To celebrate, Aitken and the other coaches were thrown in the pool.

In addition to winning numerous first-place finishes, individuals and relay teams broke state records, and the Sandpipers team’s combined efforts brought home the largest number of high-point finishers.

Individual high-point scores were achieved by Dylan Gravely, 9; Hannah Roth, 10; Sawyer Grimes, 10; and Josh Bengson, 12. Of the 133 swimmers representing the Sandpipers, many nabbed first-place wins. Swimmers of all age groups and in every event placed in top spots.

Winners included: David Miller, 12, who took first place for the 100-yard backstroke and 50- and 100-yard butterfly; Jay Yang, 14, who finished first in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly; Isabella Goldsmith, 14, who brought home the first-place medal in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke; Hannon Daigler, 18, who finished first in the 400-yard medley and second in the 200-yard backstroke; and Olivia Barker, 17, who took top spots in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly.

The wins came after a chaotic practice schedule that saw the Sandpipers swimming at different pools after their home pool at Desert Breeze was closed for renovations that took two months to complete.

Aitken acknowledged that it would have been easy to lose focus and allow the desire to succeed to be tamped down.

"But they stayed focused and did everything they were supposed to do," he said.

Daigler said it wasn’t hard to stay focused — he put in as many as five hours of practice a day — nor was he bothered by nerves.

"I live for the racing," he said.

Daigler said when he joined in 2006, the team was "nowhere near winning" but credited the coaches for bringing up the level of everyone’s performance.

Earl Fisk is a Southern California/Nevada state swimming official. His son Mike, 13, took the No. 4 spot in his age group in the 200-yard breaststroke. He complimented the team’s cohesiveness and parental support system.

"As an official, I cannot always step off duty to cheer for Mike, so it touches my heart that there is never a shortage of swimmers and parents at both ends of the pool cheering him and every other member of our team on," he said.

Marisa Finetti’s son Michael, 10, has been on the team for just over a year and qualified to go to Carson City. He competed in seven events while fighting a cold combined with elevation sickness.

"He still beat all his personal bests except for one," she said.

The nonprofit swim club has been churning out swimmers of all levels, from novice to Olympic potentials, since 1968. Barker and Daigler have qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials, which are set to take place in June.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 387-2949.

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