Grand County High School students celebrated the boys swimming team championship win with a traditional fire truck parade after school on Friday, Feb. 8. The boys swimming team won the Utah 3A State Championship on Thursday, Feb. 7, at Brigham Young University in Provo. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

The Grand County High School Red Devils had some key swimmers have great races, helping the boys swim team capture the state championship in 3A competition on Thursday, Feb. 7, at Brigham Young University in Provo.

The Grand County High School (GCHS) boys finished with 220 points, eclipsing Emery’s 212, a flip-flop from the Region 15 meet on Jan. 24, where the Spartans beat the Red Devils 288.5-261. Senior Braxten Pierce won both of his individual events, shaving more than a second off of his region time in the 100-yard butterfly at 54.30, and beating the field by more than five seconds in the 200-yard freestyle at 1:47.48, breaking the school records in both races and joining older sister Alexa in being a perfect 8-0 in individual events at the state meet throughout their high school careers. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Braxten Pierce won state titles in both the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles.

“I’m pretty proud of it,” Braxten Pierce said of the feat. “It took some hard work. I was just focused on doing the best I could and that was the result of it.”

GCHS swimming coach Brian Pierce won coach of the year in the boys division, while male swimmer of the year went to Emery’s Keldan Guymon, who won both the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke races.

The Red Devils got some help winning the title by the medley relay team of freshmen Arthur Hawks and Brendan Moore, junior Dallin Stucki and senior Alex Lacy, who swam an excellent race, coach Pierce said, shaving about five seconds off of their seed time and moving up several spots into ninth place in the process. The quartet finished the race with a time of 1:56.50.

GCHS also had senior Corbin Arbon take second in the 50-yard freestyle, despite coming into the meet ranked fifth, swimming a school-record 22.79. Arbon also placed third in the 100-yard freestyle at 51.90. GCHS had three swimmers in the top seven in the butterfly as following Pierce’s victory were sophomore Pat Pakkarato in fourth at 58.86 and Lacy was seventh at 1:02.64, a three-second improvement from his seed time.

Braxten Pierce said the Red Devil swimmers are a tight-knit group that gets excited for each other’s success.

“Taking state was an entire team effort,” Braxten Pierce said. “It was close enough that if any one of those scores were missing, we may not have won.”

The all-star quartet of seniors Pierce, Arbon and Connor Ainge and sophomore Pakkarato placed second in both the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays, breaking their own school records in each race and holding off chasers to secure the title. In the 200, the group swam a 1:34.60, and in the 400, they swam a 3:31.00. Emery placed first in both races, but they were unable to overcome the Red Devils’ cumulative team score.

“It was really good for the boys,” coach Pierce said. “They watched the girls take state two years ago and three years ago and they’ve always fully supported the girls, so for them to get their own state title is special for them.”

In the girls division, the Lady Red Devils scored 20 points at the state meet with strong performances from both junior Josie Wakefield in the 100-yard backstroke (12th at 1:11.03), and junior Kiersten Kimmerle in the 100-yard breaststroke (14th, 1:25.36). Carbon won the team girls title with 267 point, a single point ahead of second-place Rowland Hall at 266. Judge Memorial placed third (257) and Region 15’s Emery (234) placed fourth and Richfield (199) placed fifth.

Coach Pierce said that he’s excited for the future of the Red Devil program in both boys and girls swimming.

“On the boys side, we’re losing eight seniors, but we still have a solid core led by Dallin Stucki and Pat Pakkarato,” he said. “This year we had a group of four or five sophomores and they all qualified for state. We’ll be young, but we’ve got plenty of potential. We’re excited to see what they can do.”

The girls are also led by a solid core of returning swimmers, anchored by Wakefield and Kimmerle, as well as sophomores Grace Johnston and Neelie Relph. Coach Pierce said he also hopes to see an influx of talented incoming freshmen next season.

“We’ll keep focusing on self-improvement and hopefully the variables will fall into place,” he said. “That’s what we try to do is get better every time out and let the rest take care of itself.”

GCHS boys win 3A swimming title

“That’s what we try to do is get better every time out and let the rest take care of itself.”