The Lady Red Devils pose together at BYU in Provo after placing second in the 2015 UHSAA Utah State 2A Swimming Championships on Thursday, Feb. 12.

Lady Red Devil sophomore Alexa Pierce earned 2A female swimmer of the year honors after setting new state records in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle races, leading the Grand girls swim team to a second-place finish at the Utah State 2A Swimming Championships, which took place on Thursday, Feb. 12 at BYU in Provo. Her father, Grand swimming coach Brian Pierce, was named 2A girls coach of the year.

Alexa Pierce, who set state records which she still holds on her way to winning the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke state titles as a freshman in 2014, swam the 50-yard freestyle in a record 25.55 seconds and the 100-yard freestyle in a record 55.37 seconds.

“Any coach, or father, would be very impressed by that kind of performance,” Brian Pierce said. “You couldn’t ask for more.”

Brian Pierce appeared happy to win the coach of the year award, which he said he didn’t have any idea he was in the running for, but gave credit to the team rather than talking about his personal accomplishment. Alexa Pierce said she enjoys having her father as a coach.

“It’s great having my dad as a coach,” she said. “We get to share something that we both love to do. Not very many athletes get that opportunity.”

Alexa Pierce was seeded second in both races, winning the 50-yard freestyle despite No. 1 ranked Morgan Davis, a freshman from Intermountain Christian, also beating her seed time. Her seed time in the 100-yard freestyle was .09 behind Rowland Hall senior Kelsey Oliver, and beat her by almost an entire second.

“We took a gamble points-wise putting her in that race, but it paid off,” Brian Pierce said.

Alexa Pierce said it’s “super cool” that she was able to win both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle races.

“I was nervous,” she said. “I knew if I tried my best, I’d have a good chance of finishing first. It was exactly what I hoped for.”

Along with her two individual victories, Alexa Pierce was part of two first-place relay teams. Sophomore Heather Sweeney, senior Robin Willscheidt-Johnson, Alexa Pierce and sophomore Ellie Kelly swam to first in the 200-yard medley relay at 2:09.90, taking first place after Emery was disqualified when their fourth swimmer took off too early. Brian Pierce said that race, which was the first one of the meet, set the tone for the Grand girls.

“That first win set the tone for the rest of the meet,” Brian Pierce said. “After making the podium the first time, the girls were on fire from then on out.”

Sophomore River Richards, Kelly, sophomore Jayelen Knowles and Alexa Pierce placed first in the 200-yard freestyle relay at 1:54.11 after leading the race from start to finish.

Alexa Pierce said the Lady Red Devils, who only have 10 female swimmers on their roster, were excited about their second-place finish.

“It was fun to have us rank so high as such as a small school,” she said.

The Lady Red Devils racked up 211.5 points, finishing second to Emery’s 268.5 points. Third-place North Summit scored 199 points. The Spartans also won the boys championship, racking up 266 points.

“Emery was expected to win,” Brian Pierce said. “We knew it would be close between us and North Summit.”

Helping contribute to the second-place finish, Richards placed second in both of her individual events, swimming the 200-yard individual medley at 2:36.05 and the 100-yard butterfly at 1:14.02. Richards was only 1.56 seconds behind first-place Madi Allinson of Emery in the individual medley. Knowles also earned an individual podium finish, placing third in the 200-yard freestyle at 2:31.44, while also placing fourth in the 500-yard freestyle at 6:52.63.

“I felt very confident going into both of my races,” Richards said. “I knew I could get second or better in both of them.”

Richards shaved about three seconds off of her personal record in both races.

In the smaller freestyles, the Lady Red Devils had multiple participants behind Alexa Pierce score points for the team. Kelly placed fifth in the 100-yard freestyle at 1:04.25, and sixth in the 50-yard freestyle at 29.23; junior Kayla Weston placed 10th in the 50-yard freestyle at 31.41, and 12th in the 100-yard freestyle at 1:12.77; Willscheidt-Johnson placed eighth in the 100-yard freestyle at 1:08.73; and junior Mandy Wilkinson placed 12th in the 50-yard freestyle at 32.27.

Willscheidt-Johnson also swam to fourth place in the 100-yard breaststroke at 1:18.23, followed by Wilkinson in 12th place at 1:36.70. In the 100-yard backstroke, Sweeney placed 11th at 1:23.96 and freshman Brooklin Hugentobler placed 15th at 1:34.72.

“I’m really proud of all our girls,” Richards said. “We only have 10 swimmers and made the bigger schools work really hard to earn their points.”

Richards and Alexa Pierce said the girls will continue working hard to improve and build the program.

“This isn’t it for us,” Richards said.

Brian Pierce attributed the success of the team, in its third year of existence, to a strong competitive swim team in the city recreation program to build up young swimmers, community support and the creation of the 2A division.

“Last year, they created the 2A division, which really leveled the playing field,” Brian Pierce said.

The Red Devil boys placed seventh at the state championships, scoring 79 points. Junior Drake Hackney led the way for the boys, placing fourth in the 100-yard butterfly at 1:04.46, and finishing eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke at 1:12.29.

Hackney said he expected to finish stronger in the breaststroke than the butterfly stroke.

“In the butterfly, I was seeded ninth, shaved five seconds off and took fourth,” he said. “Then in the breaststroke, I was seeded fifth, and in that race, the competition was fierce, and even though I P.R.’d by over a second, I ended up taking eighth.”

Individual events award points to the first-through-12th-place finishers, while relay events award double the points of individual events. Each relay event had no more than eight teams on Thursday, so each team that finished without getting disqualified earned at least 10 points. The Grand boys earned 14 points for their seventh-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay, 20 points for their fifth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay, and 18 points for their sixth-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Also competing in individual events for the Red Devil boys were freshman Tyler Moreau, who finished eighth in the 500-yard freestyle and 12th in the 200-yard freestyle; sophomore Sidney Shumway, who placed 10th in the 200-yard individual medley; freshman Deklynd Chant, who placed 11th in the 200-yard individual medley and 16th in the 100-yard backstroke; junior River Murdock, who placed 15th in the 100-yard backstroke and 16th in the 100-yard freestyle; and sophomore Ben Shafer, who placed 16th in the 200-yard freestyle.

“All of the boys dropped time,” Brian Pierce said. “The boys team is a really young team. Next year will be a lot different. We’ll have an experienced core with a group of good incoming swimmers.

“I think the boys team will go up from here,” Hackney said. “We’ve got some strong swimmers coming up. It’ll be good next year.”

Brian Pierce wins 2A girls coach of the year, daughter Alexa Pierce wins swimmer of the year

Any coach, or father, would be very impressed by that kind of performance. You couldn’t ask for more.