“GOAL” MEDAL Performance
Stott, Michael J
Brophy Prep (Ariz.) narrowly edges Upper Arlington (Ohio) for the title of the premier boys’ high school program in the land.
One was in the Southwest, the other the Midwest, but they were enough alike to have been twins. In the preseason, they focused on goal-setting. Their seasons, driven by a shared work ethic that can only be described as intense, were all about performance. So it was not at all surprising that these common threads resulted in a down-to-the-wire outcome for Swimming World Magazine’s boys’ national high school championship.
At season’s end, however, Brophy College Preparatory (Phoenix, Ariz.) edged Upper Arlington (Columbus, Ohio) 114-107 to win the “mythicals.” The Broncos also narrowly defeated UA in the three dual meet formats used as tests of quality, strength and depth, to take the overall national crown, with Brophy adding the independent school title and Upper Arlington taking the top spot among public schools.
Riding upper-class excellence, both powers excelled in relay action and placed well in several individual events to nip powerful Bellarmine Prep (San Jose, Calif.), which scored 104 points for third. Texas 5A state champ Kingwood was fourth with 80 points.
Leading the way for Coach Bil Kopas’ Broncos was Swimming World Magazine’s Male High School Swimmer of the Year Alex Righi. The Yale-bound Righi won the 100 yard back (48.00), placed second in the 50 free (20.31) leading off Brophy’s triumphant 200 free relay (1:23.86) and handled the backstroke leg on the fourth-place 200 medley relay.
Joining Righi on the 200 FR were Alexs brother, Carter, T.J. Hutter and David Pursley The medley team of Alex Righi, Ryan Key, Hutter and Carter Righi recorded a 1:33.70, just 4-tenths off Upper Arlington’s national best.
Pursley, a team captain along with Alex Righi, Key and Chris Voigt, swam 4:29.64 in the 500 free for 11th nationally and 1:51.86 in the 200 IM (16th).
For the Broncos, the season begins in mid-August. Over Labor Day weekend, the team annually gathers at Manresa, a Brophy-owned retreat center at Oak Creek Canyon, located just north of Sedona, Ariz.
“Its a time when we reconvene as a family and establish who we are. We hike, and the seniors talk about the tradition of the team. We do a lot of work there,” says Kopas, who graduated from Brophy in 1985.
The goals tend to come from the team itself, especially with this class. A main objective for the 2004 bunch was “to be better than last year’s team,” which was the finest in school history
A seminal moment for the squad arrived in 2003 when senior captain Jon Ehret, now at Northwestern, challenged the team to move to a new level and vie for the NISCA power point title. The crown proved elusive, but the stage was set.
“The Brophy community is really a special place,” Kopas says. “The kids are academically talented. They’re a group that never says no, and that’s a tribute to the school. Our family atmosphere helps build that.”
Kopas has been on the job at Brophy for 15 years, the last 14 as head coach. And based on his returning talent, Kopas may lead his team to a second straight national title.
“Our juniors have talked about (repeating) as seniors,” admits Kopas. “It’s neat to hear such talk coming from them.”
Upper Arlington, this year’s top public school, has a storied swimming past as well. Lean and mean, the suburban Columbus school features 20 swimmers, as opposed to the 60 swimmers and divers at Brophy or the 100 at rival St. Xavier of Cincinnati.
This season, the Golden Bears finished second to St. X (259-248) in the Ohio state meet, but possessed enough strength to place all three relays among Swimming World Magazine’s top 12.
The 200 medley relay of Phil Geiger, Nate Cass, Dan Wendorff and Chris Yunker was the country’s fastest at 1:33.30. The 400 free relay was fifth in 3:06.91, thanks to Wendorff, Matt Long, Curtis Smith and Cass. The 200 free relay’s 1:25.40 by Yunker, Wendorff, Long and Smith proved good for 12th.
Upper Arlington, coached by Kevin Chapman, had only one individual scorer. Cass, a senior, was the nation’s second-fastest 200IM performer (1:48.22) behind St. Thomas Aquinas’ (Fla.) Bradley Ally, who set a national independent school record of 1:46.31-the fastest high school time ever in the event. Ally was the only boy to set a national record this season. Cass also placed seventh in the 100 back (49.83).
“This was an outstanding group of seniors who trained incredibly hard for the last four years,” Chapman says. “We do some crazy things in training. Each summer, as part of the swim club, we bike 90 miles to a long course meet in Findlay Ohio. Next season, we are planning on adding another 60- to 70-mile trip to Cedar Point, and we are truly considering an upcoming summer bicycle trip from coast to coast as a part of our cross training.
“This year, we set a goal to win the state meet. (We know that) if we do well at the state meet, then a strong (national) finish is just icing on the cake.”
Michael J. Stott is a contributing editor to Swimming World Magazine.
Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Aug 2005
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