Cottonwood Aquatics Center hosts first sanctioned meet

Swimmers dive into a race Thursday at the Cottonwood Aquatics Center. VVN/Jon Pelletier

Swimmers dive into a race Thursday at the Cottonwood Aquatics Center. VVN/Jon Pelletier

COTTONWOOD-Mingus Head Swim Coach Erin Estes' mission to take the program to the next level took a giant step forward Thursday as the Cottonwood Aquatics Center hosted an AIA sanctioned meet for the first time.

The new AIA rules require swimmers to achieve a qualifying time at a sanctioned meet to make the final state meet. Previously, anyone who won a region meet was an automatic qualifier for state, but the rules have changed.

An AIA sanctioned meet must have touchpads, plungers, and hand times. At least five teams must participate in the meet. It also has to have its own core of seven officials.

"We ran the first sanctioned meet that this team's ever had and this pool's ever had, and that's a big deal," Estes said. "Our key word is legitimate, and we proved it yesterday. We're going to be a force to recon with."

The Cottonwood Aquatic Center is now very special.

"We are the only pool in Northern Arizona that has this capacity. We couldn't have applied for sanctioning if we didn't have the electronic timing equipment," Estes said.

Estes was impressed by the performance of her team.

"Overall, we took third place. We missed beating out Sedona by three points, so we had a big discussion about what we could have done differently and what we will do in the future," Estes said. "I'm really proud of them. We saw outstanding swims in all four zones. We break up our swims, and we talk about them in four sections so we can tactically approach each event. They were best in zone four because they didn't want to get beat."

*Zones are explained in the gray box to the right.

Estes pointed out the importance of hosting a sanctioned meet early in the season.

"Some of our kids hit provisional times, no one actually hit an automatic qualifier yet, it's early, but we wanted to run this meet early in the season so we had a benchmark to know what we need to do for the next month. We need to be ready."

Assistant Coach Rick Heisley has been involved in the Mingus swim program since it started.

"It was very special to see the scoreboard going and all the officials. It was pretty cool," Heisley said. "It's a great improvement. The two extra lanes are great. Eight lanes gives us a lot more options we haven't had in years past."

Assistant Coach Tyler Novak said the Mingus team showed how they can compete against good teams.

"Sedona and Flagstaff are the two top teams in Northern Arizona, and for us to show up and do as well as we did against them bodes well for our team. I think it really means something, and it shows Mingus has the potential to do what it takes," said Novak.

A key to Mingus' strong showing was the performance of the divers. Novak explained how dive points and swim points both count toward a team score.

Logan Kitchen got second in boys diving Thursday, and Farrah Etcheverry placed first in girls diving for the meet.

A new dive coach has been showing them the ropes. Teri Starr stepped into the position and has been getting fast results from her divers.

"The kids are fast learners, they listen well and they pay attention and that really helps," said Starr.

Starr has a passion for diving. Coach Estes pointed out that Starr just has the look, like she belongs on a pool deck.

"It's exciting to watch the progression of learning. It's more than just learning the dives, they're learning life skills. Not always in life is everything easy and this shows it. There's a lot of fear involved and the divers overcome that fear. It's neat to teach them techniques, not only here at the pool, but in life. That's exciting for me to see," Starr said.

On some teams the swimmers and divers are completely separate, but Estes has made it a point to treat them the same.

Coach Estes is serious about getting the most from her athletes. Her knowledge of swimming makes her a good coach, but her experience with sanctioning rules and electronic timing systems help to make Mingus swimming more legitimate.

Zone one includes everything in preparation behind the block, to the take-off, to the breakout, past the first thee pulls.

The second zone is from the breath point after the breakout to the wall.

Zone three is everything the swimmers do off the wall to a breakout point.

Zone four is after the breakout point to the finish.

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