The presence of six Rim Country swimmers is this season buoying Swim Neptune of Scottsdale — Arizona’s defending state club championship team and the largest swim club in the state.
The local team members include Julie Gibson, 14, Emily Giarrizzo, 11, Caroline Morse, 12, Catalina Coppelli, 10, Garrett Chance, 11, and Blair Chance, 9.
Among those who have encouraged the young swimmers to take their skills to Swim Neptune and head coach Joe Zemaitis is Chris Giarrizzo, long an advocate of providing more aquatic activities in the Rim Country.
“These kids have made heavy sacrifices for their love of the sport, juggling workouts in the Tonto Apache pool with 200-mile commutes to Scottsdale for practices with their team,” Chris said. “Most days the swimmers leave after school, do their homework on the road, and return home just in time for bed.”
Gibson and Emily Giarrizzo have qualified to participate in the upcoming Arizona Short Course Championships at the Brophy Sports Complex in Phoenix.
Although Gibson qualified in eight events, rules limit her to six.
She has opted to compete in the 100 free, 50 free, 50 fly, 100 back, 50 back and 200 free events.
“Julie is seeded third in the state in the 100 free, 6th in the 50 back and 7th in the 50 free,” Chris said.
Also, Gibson will be traveling next week to Fort Lauderdale, where she will compete in the Speedo Series Southern Zone Section Championships.
She is one of 12 members of Team Neptune to qualify for sectionals.
“This is a remarkable accomplishment for a young swimmer who has only been training on a year-round basis for 17 months,” Chris said.
Emily Giarrizzo, Chris’ daughter, competes in the 11-12 years group and has qualified for the state championships in the 400 individual medley and 400 free relay.
The younger Giarrizzo wrapped up the short course regular season with nine regional qualifying times and was less than two seconds off qualifying for state in four additional races.
Emily is the veteran among the local swimmers having been involved in year-round competitive swimming for six years.
In upcoming months, she will be trying new events including the demanding 400- and 500-yard freestyle swims.
Morse and Coppelli joined Swim Neptune in September and are already drawing raves for their work ethic.
“Caroline qualified for the region championships in February in seven events and finished less than two seconds off the state qualifying time in the 50 free,” said Chris. “Caroline has proven to be a strong freestyler, but also enjoys the 200 medley and backstroke.”
Coppelli qualified for regionals in seven events before suffering a season-ending broken wrist.
Brothers Blair and Garrett Chance began swimming last summer with the Payson Pikes and joined Swim Neptune in October.
“Their progress in the sport is impressive,” said Chris.
In the 50 free, from Nov. 2010 to Feb. 2011, Blair improved his first USA swim meet time by 15 seconds.
In that same time period, Garrett improved his 50 free time by seven seconds.
With the short course season at an end, the swimmers will now turn their attention to the long course campaign, which runs from April to July.
During those months, the swimmers will once again have the opportunity to qualify for region and state competitions.
The accomplishment of the swimmers in Scottsdale has drawn plaudits from Chris, “Payson has some true talent developing in the sport and our young swimmers have much to be proud of.”
In workouts on Wednesday and Fridays at Tonto Apache pool, local coach Amity Justice oversees the practices.