Under the direction of new head coach Brendon Kenney, the Mingus swim team looks strong. The girls' side has depth with several relay teams expected to qualify for state and the boys have young top-tier talent mixed with a few savvy veterans.
Kenney knows how important the Cottonwood Clippers summer swim team will be to Mingus' success year after year because he swam for similar teams back in Kansas.
"I swam for summer and club programs, I started when I was 8-years-old and swam through high school. Then I worked at an aquatics facility in college and continued to work there after college as a red cross instructor and swim coach before moving to Arizona," said Kenney. "I was able to spend some time with the Clippers program over the summer and it's a great organization from top to bottom and the coaching is great. The way they are able to get a large number of kids involved in swimming is really good for the community, and I think the relationship that the Clippers and Mingus Union have has been very good, is very good, and will continue to be very good."
A good example of how the Clippers feed talent to the high school program is freshman swimmer Sean Williams, a kid expected to qualify for the fastest heats in the 50 and 100 freestyle. He's the fastest freshman longtime Mingus swim coach Rick Heisley has ever seen, "and that's saying something."
Kenney plans to coach the Mingus team for years to come and he's excited for the opportunity to pick up where Erin Estes left off and build a thriving program, starting with a strong showing at the state meet this season.
Mingus won't host a state qualifier this year because a lot of planning goes into organizing the necessary criteria for sanctioning; it was too much for a first-year coach to take on. Kenney said he'd like to host a sanctioned meet next season.
This year Mingus swimmers will get their first opportunity to qualify for the state meet at the Brophy Invitational Saturday, Sept 22.
Senior Lacy O'Connell has confidence her team can hold their own against the best in the state.
"At the Brophy meet we're going to tear it up," said O'Connell "We're going to get great times and that pool is a really great pool. It's a great opportunity for some of our new swimmers to see what competitive swimming is all about and actually see how focused athletes perform. When our team sees that atmosphere, it's going to click in their minds that we can be legit."
Junior Dylan Wilbur looks to qualify for state in the 100 breaststroke. He's chasing his brother David's times.
"I'm trying to beat my brother's times in breast stroke because he's pretty good at it," said Wilbur. "He was a top placer at state back in 2010."
Dylan Wilbur also has to compete with teammate Shannon Knowles, another Mingus swimmer proficient in the 100 breaststroke. She qualified for state in the event her freshman and sophomore years.
"I really just want to drop my time and place even higher this year," said Knowles. "Ever since the third grade Dylan and I have competed against each other in the breaststroke. He's one of my best friends and it's great competition. In our first home meet I beat him by a little bit and the last meet he beat me, so we go back and forth."
Knowles is also part of the medley relay that qualified for state last season and placed 12th. This year that squad of Monica Soliz swimming backstroke, Shannon Knowles swimming breaststroke, Francesca Settanni swimming butterfly, and Leah Mount swimming freestyle, hopes to compete against the better relays in the state.
Settanni is also a distance freestyle swimmer, looking for fast times in the 500 and 200 freestyle.
"I hope to get new PRs at the Brophy meet and hopefully state qualifying times," said Settanni.
A theme coming from the swimmers when asked about their new coach: he's making them work harder.
"We swim a lot each day -- he makes it pretty hard on us, he makes us better. Instead of talking a lot he wants us in the pool swimming. He's more of a do-it-now, get-it-done kinda guy," said Wilbur.
That hard work translates to more confidence on the blocks.
Mingus' next home swim competition is Thursday, Sept. 20 when the Marauders host Prescott.