|Member of the Cottonwood Clippers cheer on a teammate during their race as head coach Daniel Nevarez stands over their lane, coaching. VVN/Travis Guy|
When your club occupies almost a quarter of the sitting area at a meet, it is safe to bet that they will win the team trophy. In the case of the Cottonwood Clippers, sprinkle in top-3 finishes and you have a recipe for a blowout.
"We're a force, we're an army, I love it," said Cottonwood Clippers head coach Daniel Nevarez. "It just shows you how dedicated, and how much this program means to this community these kids love this program and we've been growing every year for the last few years. It gives me goose bumps, I love it"
That is what happened when the Clippers swim team traveled to Sedona for the Sedona Splash, the club's first large meet of the season. When the final points were added up and the trophies were handed out, the Clippers had more than double the point of second place Sedona Swordfish Swim Team with 4,800.
The Clippers had a swimmer in almost every race, and in most races they finished in the top-5. Junior Monica Soliz was of two first-place point's winners with 114. The Mingus Union junior won the girls 15-18 division. Joining Monica with a gold was 11-year-old Emma Warner and Andrew Tate. Emma won the girls 11-12 division by scoring 160 points and finishing first in all of her races, and Andrew took home the gold in the 9-10 divsion.
"It was kind of surprising," Monica said. "I didn't think I was going to get it the whole way through the meet and we were calculating them at the end (the points), and we just figured out that I had the highest. I don't know, I was pretty excited, I was surprised to."
In a few of Monica's races, and some of the other Clipper's races, they raced a proven swimmer at the college level. Caitlyn Wright, who swims for NAU, is placed in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) Championships her sophomore year. Despite being aware of Wright swimming against her, the distance runner did not let that effect her performance.
"I did, but it didn't really effect me that much because she's 20, so I didn't let it get to me in any of the races," Monica said.
One Clipper that had an impressive showing was Gunner Tillemans. The 12-year-old stood a few inches taller than his competition, which was obvious as the swimmers lined up on the starting boards. Gunner finished second in points, behind Kingman's Diego Narvarte, who only beat Gunner once. Also joining Gunner on the medal stand was Dorian Boyd, who also took second and Luke Fangman, Janna Smithm Courtney Warner and Ashlyn Wingfield all won third in their divisions.
"Am I surprised? No. No, I'm very happy with the progress of this team," Nevarez said. "They outdid and outshone ... they really stepped up to the plate this weekend and they did an amazing job, everyone single one of them did an amazing job with their individual races and with their relays. I was very happy with the relays this weekend."
The Clippers will look to build on what they have accomplished in their first meet of the season when they venture to Kingman for the Dick Tomlin Invitational.
"When I go into a swim meet, I never try to expect who's going to get top points, because there are so many different factors that go into it," Nevarez said. "It depends on how many races each individual swims and how they did, so I don't really look for who's going to get it and who's not going to get it. I'm very happy with who does ever get it and I was very pleased with who got it this time. Janna Smith, she's a first year swimmer and for her to place third overall, in the whole meet, is absolutely amazing and fantastic."