Although it would be a stretch to consider Payson an aquatics hot spot, the town is turning out several outstanding swimmers.
They include Emily Giarrizzo, Catalina Coppelli, Garret Chance, Julie Gibson, Blain Chance, Caroline Morris, Caitlin Harold, Abby Ballam and Tianni Lawrence.
All are members of the Scottsdale-based Swim Neptune, being coached locally by Cheryl Chance.
For the aquatics season, Swim Neptune head coach Joe Zemaitis contracted with the Tonto Apache Tribe to have the Payson team members practice in their pool, which gives the local swimmers a year-round program and limits trips to the Valley for practices.
For meets, however, the Payson swimmers travel to Scottsdale and other Valley cities.
Gibson, 15, is among the most accomplished Payson swimmers especially in the freestyle — an event in which she is state ranked.
She recently qualified for the Arizona State Seniors Swimming Championships in a whopping 13 events.
In June, Gibson plans to attend a prestigious swim camp hosted by Texas A&M University.
Although Giarrizzo is only 12 years of age, she will be making her fifth state appearance March 9-11 in the Arizona Age Group State Swimming Championships at Chandler High School.
She has qualified for state in the 50 fly, 50 breast, 100 breast, 200 breast, 100 individual medley and the 400 individual medley.
She is currently seeded 19th in the state in the 200 breast stroke, which she says is one of her favorite events along with the individual medleys.
Giarrizzo’s mother, Chris, almost singlehandedly spearheaded the effort to bring Swim Neptune and a year-round aquatics program to the Rim Country.
Coppelli, 12, and Garret Chance, 12, have also qualified for the state meet.
Coppelli will be making her first state appearance and will be competing in the 400 individual medley, an event Chris Giarrizzo simply calls “grueling.”
Recently Coppelli bettered her PR in the event by 15 seconds.
Chance, the coach’s son who has been swimming competitively for just two years, qualified this year for state in 12 events including both sprints and long distances.
At state, he will compete in the maximum allowed six events including 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 fly, 500 free and mile free.
Morse, 13, has impressed Chris Giarrizzo and coaches with her rapid improvement that includes bettering 10 of her personal best times.
“She looks forward to a great year ahead as she climb to the top of her age group,” said Chris Giarrizzo.
Blair Chance, 9, “had a great year of racing,” said Chris Giarrizzo.
Harold, Ballam and Lawrence are promising newcomers to the team, still learning the nuances of the sport.
Parents interested in having their children turn out for Swim Neptune should call Cheryl Chance at (928) 595-0340 for more information.