Hillcrest winter sports wrapped up with region, state competitionsMar 29, 2022 09:52PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Many Hillcrest High athletes competed in region and state contests marking the end of the winter sports seasons for swimming, boys’ and girls’ basketball and wrestling.
At the state 5A swimming meet, senior Josh Arevalo set a new school record in 100-yard breaststroke with his fastest time, 1:00.43. He finished eighth.
“It’s been my goal the past four years,” he said. “As a freshman, my fastest time was 1:05. My coaches were saying you could go a ‘double 0’ if you fix your technique, so that’s what I’ve been working on. I remember stepping on the blocks thinking to myself, it’s now or never. When I saw my time, it was such a relief.”
His teammate, junior Michael Chen, also swam the event, finishing 28th with a time of 1:04.51.
Arevalo competed in the 200-yard individual medley, placing 26th with a time of 2:10.95.
Arevalo began competitive swimming at age 12 after taking swim lessons at the old Midvale Middle School pool and at Dimple Dell Recreation Center.
“Once I got the strokes down, I felt like I could just breeze through the water. Then, I really like racing and the adrenaline rush. I just wanted to be faster,” he said.
Arevalo completed his state experience on the boys’ medley relay, swimming with teammates senior Lucas Bolster, sophomore Abhi Iyengar and sophomore Evan Fessendenl; they placed 18th.
While the girls didn’t have anyone qualify for state, sophomore Oakley Young said they swam well at region. The girls placed fourth; the boys, third.
“I had ups and downs during the season, but I medaled at region and that’s how I wanted it,” she said about her 100-yard butterfly race which she snagged sixth place with her best time, 1:15.
She’s already setting goals for next season as she plans to swim off season as well as do core workouts in preparation. She also plans to lift weights to make her stronger in the water.
“We’re hoping to have an even stronger team next year,” she said. “The team is so much fun; there is a lot of positive energy.”
Coach Brandon Sluga already is planning his offseason with team members playing AAU ball in spring and summer leagues, attending basketball camp, then playing in some tournaments.
“We’ll be spending a lot of time in the gym,” he said. “We’re looking for the team to play together, so they can be better; we’re needing more consistency.”
With seven seniors graduating, he may have to rely on two juniors who started most games and younger players to fill the roster.
“We have some talent, but we need to be on the same page,” he said. “This year, we did that at times, but struggled other times. And that’s the story of this year, we could dominate or compete in a portion of the games, but never put it together for a full game. We did have some nice wins, but we would have liked a few more."
The team went 6-18 this season, losing in the first round of state playoffs to Murray, 72-57.
Injury, illness, including cases of COVID-19, also plagued the team.
Sluga was proud of the freshmen boys playing for the consolation championship after collecting 10 wins as well as the fifth- through eighth-grade leagues were putting in focus and hard effort.
“We’re building a foundation for our program,” he said. “We have a lot of good kids coming forward.”
“It’s been a wild ride,” said Amanda Desjardins, senior co-captain along with junior Olivia Backus. “I’ve liked all my coaches; I’ve had three head coaches in four years.”
That includes this year when freshman/sophomore coach Alyssa Nielsen stepped up as interim head coach after their previous head coach stepped down a few games into the season for personal reasons.
“Each coach wanted to do it their way, but this transition was easier since we knew her and she built off of what we knew,” Desjardins said.
Desjardins began playing as an elementary student, first in Junior Jazz games then on AAU teams. Her family, including her older sister (who also played Husky ball), and friends supported her at the games.
“I still love the sport. I love the thrill of hitting the floor, the crowd, the lights,” she said. “I’ve played every position and am willing to do that so I can play.”
Desjardins said the Huskies had a great start, then hit a slump. Hillcrest went 6-16, with four region wins before losing in the first playoff round to eventual 5A state champion Springville, 56-35.
“I would have liked to go further,” Desjardins said, adding that during the season, players were out for COVID, injuries and other reasons. “I feel we’ve set a good foundation so I’m excited to see where this team will go.”
Nielsen was glad she had the opportunity to coach the team.
“The biggest part I think for me and for the girls was it was just a lot of fun; we ended up winning some games and that was a lot of fun as well,” she said. “The team overcame a lot of adversity throughout the whole season. It’s been so rewarding to see them develop and grow into the people they want to be. The senior class was by far the absolute best leaders I could have asked for. They stepped into different roles and different positions, and they did just awesome.”
An announcement of the girls’ head coach is expected in April.
Every one of the eight student-athletes on the girls’ team competed at state with junior Briona Love taking second and Eliza Zimmerman finishing fourth for the Huskies.
Three boys wrestled at state, Isaiah Rayco, Wesley Tello and Ezekiel Zimmerman, where Hillcrest’s team lost to state champions Uintah High and runner-up Payson High; all three teams are in the same region.
“We were persistent; we had the most success from the tournament places,” Coach Nick Pappas said.
A definite highlight of the season was winning the Battle of the Axe in the 53rd dual meet against Brighton High, he said. The JV and girls’ teams also snagged team wins in the meet. It was the Huskies fourth time winning the Axe.
This year, five seniors, two on varsity, will graduate on the boys’ team. All female wrestlers are expected to return.
“We’re hoping to double the numbers for next year,” Pappas said.
He said already some of his squad was signing up to wrestle in club tournaments while others are competing in spring sports.
The team also may hold a summer camp, opening it up to the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade wrestlers who participated in the winter program.