Murray Swim Team Starts Season Off With A Splash
Nov 06, 2015 09:54AM ● Published by Bryan Scott
By Sarah Almond
The Utah High School Athletic Association officially began the 2015-2016 swimming season on Oct. 5 and already the Murray High School Swim Team is off to a strong start. Though many of the team’s 53 swimmers have been attending optional practices since Aug. 24, they’ve only recently begun mandatory practice.
“We started practicing on the first day of school,” Head Coach Dale Ralph said, “but the first month or so, we take it pretty easy.”
Ralph, who’s been coaching high school swimming for more than 16 years, is beginning his fourth year coaching for the Murray Spartans. A competitive swimmer since age nine, Ralph made the 1984 Olympic trials in the 100-yard breaststroke and the 50-yard freestyle. He first began his coaching career in Bountiful, after taking over the head coach position at Bountiful High School.
“Our coach is really great,” junior captain Jonah Black, “He really works on technique and makes you feel like you can do anything.”
Black is one of six captains for the Murray Spartans swim team this year. He, along with seniors Derrick Edmondson and Mark Hansen lead the boy’s team, while juniors Madelyn Flower, Brooke Healy and senior Emory Maybe and head the girl’s team.
“We’re pretty much a coed program just because of costs and we have to share the pool,” Coach Ralph said. “So we train together, we workout together, we compete together, but our points aren’t scored together during competition.”
With only four seniors on this year’s team, the Murray Spartans are very young group of swimmers. Despite the large numbers of freshmen and sophomores who are new to swimming this year, the team camaraderie seems almost stronger than ever.
“Even though we have a young team, we have a strong group of juniors and seniors and it’s working really well,” Ralph said. “The whole team is meshing really well together and we’ve got some great talent this year.”
This camaraderie hasn’t evolved by happenstance. Many of the team members have been swimming together on club teams for years and team building activities have encouraged friendships throughout the group. A team campfire brought everyone together before the season even started and the group of 53 has been split up into different “family” units to encourage team spirit and support.
“Each captain has a ‘family’ of eight swimmers,” junior captain Madelyn Flower said. “And we do a swim meet against the other families in the middle of the season. We do it to try and bring our team closer together.”
Flower, who has been swimming for the Spartans since she was a freshman, holds the school record for the 100-yard breaststroke. In order to meet her goal this year of breaking the state record, she needs to drop two-to-three seconds off her time of 1:06; that’s a lifetime in swimming.
Another swimmer to keep an eye on this season is captain Jonah Black, who has a good chance at being a state champion in the 100-yard backstroke. Gage Milligan, Heidi Bleizeffer and Morgan Underwood also show signs of a promising season this year.
“These kids are a coaches dream,” Ralph said. “They just want to pound yards all day and just get better and better.”
With a unified goal of qualifying for the State Championships as a team, the Spartans are already off to a hard-working start. The team practices nine to ten times a week, putting in at least 3,000 yards per hour.
“I’m most excited about the meets and the competition,” senior captain Derrick Edmondson said. “But I’m also nervous about motivating the team. I’ve always been pretty concerned about that, even last year when I wasn’t a captain. If some of our swimmers tried as hard as they could, they could easily be top in the state.”
Coach Ralph has similar concerns.
“I think one of our biggest challenges is to want to be great,” Ralph said. “Instead of just wanting to be OK, we’ve got to really want to be state champs. We have to really want to be great. We’ve got to set higher goals for ourselves as a team and individually and try to reach those goals.”
That’s not to say there aren’t swimmers on the team who push themselves for greatness. The team has a wealth of kids who are eager to put in the work to become champions and some, even, who are swimming towards a bright future.
Senior captain Edmondson is swimming with the plan of joining the Navy after graduation and one day becoming a Navy Seal. Girls captain Madelyn Flower is swimming with hopes of receiving a scholarship to swim for a college or university following high school.
With their first swim meet right around the corner, the Spartans are feeling solid and confident in their training. They are kicking off their season at the Greg Fernley Invitational in Santa Clara, UT Nov. 6 - 7. Their first home meet against Judge will be held at the Murray Park Center on Nov. 10.