The Fountain Hills High School swim team had 14 swimmers this year and the Falcons set eight new school records. The boys team placed 10th at the state championships, and junior Keian Evans became the first Falcon to medal at the state meet.
The Falcons will lose four seniors this year, but there is plenty of young talent staying behind. Evans is returning and recruiting family members, and juniors Brendan Davies and Elizabeth Franzone have been with the program the last three years.
“Gunnar, Dylan [Horsfall] and Alexis have been with me for four years, so they’re like a real good core group,” head coach Patti Shultz said. “Before that, the only swimmer I had for four years was Grace Clark. They just had so much growth… not just physical growth, but how to lead a team, those leadership skills that are so important. And then Space was a great transfer for us, and we got him for the two years. I wish he had another year.”
Evans was part of two school record relay teams, and he set three more individual records in his first year with Fountain Hills. Evans finished second in 100 butterfly (52.65) at state, and he set another school record at state with his 200 individual medley relay (2:01.03). Evans set a school record for the 100 backstroke earlier in the season (57.15).
The Falcons had never sent a boys relay team to state, and they had two teams this year. Even more impressive is that senior Space Kingphakorn took his SAT exam the morning of the state finals, and he anchored both relay teams. Kingphakorn had also never swam before moving to Fountain Hills two years ago from Abu Dhabi.
The Falcons finished sixth at state in the 200 medley relay (1:47.64) and 12th in the freestyle relay (1:36.15). Senior Gunnar Wise helped Davies, Evans and Kingphakorn set new school records in both relays.
Wise set two individual records, including a new record that earned him sixth at state in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.73). Wise set a new record for 200 free earlier in the season (1:50.17) and finished seventh in the state in that event.
The Falcons had four freshmen and one other new face this season. Freshman Colby Wright was a relay alternate at state and got to experience high stake swimming without the pressure to compete, and freshman Natalie Owers competed in the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle at state.
Owers was a unique addition this season. Her mom became an assistant coach and was helpful in assisting swimmers with their strokes. Owers also swims with a summer club in Alaska, and she convinced her older sister, junior Julia Owers, to join the team again.
Both Owers sisters were part of a school record 200 freestyle relay team (2:00.68) this year with Franzone and senior Alexis Sommerschield. The only other underclassmen girl on the team was freshman Ryan Miller, and Natalie said they were received well by the older Falcons.
“I feel like everyone was welcoming,” Natalie said. “I’ve heard a lot of horror stories in a way, because I have a lot of friends on other teams. Everyone, including Alexis, was so nice. Me, Alexis, Elizabeth and Julia, we all got a PR in our 200 free relay, and we were so close to making it to state. I learned a lot from [Alexis] because she was just the kind of person I could talk to, because she was so sweet and kind.”
Natalie liked the team culture in her first year and described Schultz as an interactive coach. She’s excited to continue swimming for the Falcons and improving over the next three years.
“Obviously I want to get better, so I’m looking forward to swimming with coach Schultz because I like swimming with her,” Natalie said. “I’m looking forward to just being on the team and hanging out with the team and also improve my times.”