by Max Foster
roundup staff reporter
A low contingent of Rim country athletes wasn't enough of an obstacle to thwart the efforts of the Payson Pikes swim team at the Verde Valley Invitational.
Only 10 Payson swimmers traveled to Cottonwood Aug. 4 for the competition but those determined few managed to string together enough points to propel the squad to a fifth-place finish in the nine-team field.
The winning team, Sedona, rode the accomplishment of 69 team members to the meet crown. Runner-up Cottonwood had 65 team members and third-place Kingman's roster numbered 55.
Overall, the 10 Pikes were able to place in 28 of the 32 events contested at the invitational.
Coach Kristi Ford praised the outnumbered swimmers' efforts, saying the Pikes' accomplishments exceeded almost everyone's expectations.
"If the meet had of been scored on a percentage according to number of swimmers, they (the Pikes) would have won."
Leading the way for the Rim squad was Shelby Bennett, who finished as the runner-up to the outstanding swimmer in the 13- to 14-year girls' division. Bennett swam her way to silver medals in the backstroke and butterfly. In freestyle, she also took a bronze.
Also in the 13- to 14-year division, Rikki Ray won a gold in the backstroke and Tina Jackson a bronze in the breaststroke.
In the 7- to 8-year girls' competition, first-year swimmer Cami Barnett returned home with a bronze in the freestyle event.
Competing in the 7- to 8-year boys' division, Sean Ford earned a bronze in both the individual medley and the breaststroke. Also in that division, Cameron Romance won a bronze in freestyle.
Another highlight of the meet for Pike faithful was the performance of 6-year-old Tyler Cord. Because there was no age/sex division for him to compete in, he moved up to the 8-and-under division. Although he was competing against athletes older and more seasoned, Cord swam to a fifth-place win and two sixth-place finishes.
Also contributing to the Pike cause by placing in at least one event were Katie Ford, Melissa Garrett, Amy Buckner and Ciara Romance.