The Payson Pikes swim team wrapped up the summer season in rousing fashion finishing third overall at the Verde Valley Invitational.
Most remarkable about the feat, which was accomplished July 31 in Cottonwood, is the Pikes accomplished the task with just 21 swimmers competing against teams with much larger numbers.
It was also the best finish the Payson team has ever turned in at the invitational.
Individually, the Pikes had four team members swim their way to top-three, high-point honors in their respective age groups.
Emily Giarrizzo and Julie Gibson paced the team to the bronze, winning all of their events and taking high-point honors.
The wins mark the second successive year the two have won honors at the invitational.
Catalina Coppelli and Hayden Gibson were third-place, high-point winners in their age divisions.
Competing with the 9-10-year-old girls, Giarrizzo was first in 50-meter freestyle, 25-meter breaststroke and the 100-meter individual medley.
In the 13-14-years girls division, Julie Gibson swam to gold medals in the 200-meter individual medley, 50-meter butterfly and 100-meter freestyle.
Hayden Gibson, entered in the 8-years-and and-under boys group, was second in all three of his events: the 25-meter freestyle, 25-meter butterfly and 50-meter freestyle.
Coppelli was first in the 50-meter freestyle and the 25-meter butterfly. In the 25-meter breaststroke, she was a silver medalist.
Also for the Pikes, Katie Jones (third, 50-backstroke), Andrew Ward (first, 25-backstroke), Abby Ward (third, 25-backstroke), Dylan Justice (third, 25-freestyle), Garrett Chance (second, 25-freestyle), Bryndee Hall (third, 100-individual medley), Mariah Hintze (third, 25-freestyle) and Caroline Morse (second, 50-butterfly) returned to Payson with medals.
Coach Linda Gibson praised the efforts of Hintze saying, “She is only 6 years old and the youngest to participate.
“(She is) a great little swimmer with a passion for swimming and a big heart.”
Pikes at state championship
In addition to competing in the Verde Valley Invitational, Giarrizzo and Gibson participated July 23 in the Arizona State Swimming Championships held at Mona Plummer Aquatic Complex on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe.
There, the Payson swimmers helped their Scottsdale-based team, Swim Neptune, win its first state championship, upsetting defending state champion Scottsdale Aquatic Club.
Giarrizzo helped the Neptune’s 200-meter freestyle team take fifth place. Gibson was a member of the 400 and 200 freestyle teams, both finished sixth. She was also eighth in the 50-meter freestyle.
With the Pikes’ season at an end, both Payson swimmers will take a brief respite from training before returning to begin practice next fall for the Arizona State Short Course Championships.
Chris Giarrizzo, Emily’s mother and a parent active on the local swim scene, believes the achievements of the local swimmers have “generated interest in other Payson youth swimmers.
“There is a lot of talent up here and we remain hopeful that Payson will someday have facilities to accommodate year-round high school and youth swim teams.”
Because Payson has only a summer swim team and Taylor Pool is not open in winter, fledgling swimmers with their sight set on competing year round must commute to the Valley for practices and meets.