Pikes Gear Up For Tempe Showdown With Two Teams

There are 40 youngsters, ages 8 to 18, participating with the 2013 Payson Pikes swim team.

There are 40 youngsters, ages 8 to 18, participating with the 2013 Payson Pikes swim team. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Payson Pikes swim team members take their splash act today, Friday, to the Valley where they will showcase their skills against opponents who probably spend as much time in the water as they do out of it.

But hey, if it were 110 degrees, wouldn’t you also be in the water at every opportunity?

The three-way showdown, which begins at 6 p.m. at McClintock High School pool, pits the Pikes again Rio Salado and Val Vista Lakes Swim Club.

Rio Salado is a year-round, pre-competitive and competitive swim club operated by David Tait, the same man who manages Taylor Pool in Payson and the EVO Swim Club in Gilbert.

Rio Salado’s Web site declares it has a, “long tradition of training superior athletes” and its mission “is to offer a superior competitive swim program.”

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The Pikes swim team gets to have some fun in Taylor Pool in addition to their more series practice sessions.

Val Vista Lakes is a summer recreation swim program for residents of the subdivision.

Parent volunteers help plan and execute the program.

Pikes swim team coach Sean Ford believes his team could be at a disadvantage against both clubs, especially Rio Salado, because local youths’ swimming opportunities are extremely limited compared to those in the metropolitan Valley area.

He, however, is looking forward to today’s meet, “It’s going to give our kids a chance to compete and an extra opportunity to earn rewards and receive feedback.”

Also, he adds, competing in the eight-lane, 25-yard McClintock pool could give the Pike swimmers a thrill, “It’s really a fast pool, and it will be exciting for our kids.”

Just last year, the Pikes might have had the experienced swimmers needed to shine on the Valley-area aquatic stage because a group of up to nine Payson youths were competing on the Scottsdale-based Swim Neptune club team.

In fact, in 2011, local swimmers Julie Gibson, Emily Giarrizzo and Garret Chance helped Swim Neptune win its second consecutive Arizona State Long Course Championship.

From those Swim Neptune team members, only Catalina Coppelli remains on the Pikes, but she is definitely a standout who Ford expects to shine today.

“She is very good, her fundamentals are so sound,” the coach said.

Last summer at the Verde Valley Invitational that drew 300 youths, Coppelli performed lights out, winning the high point championship among the 11-12-years girls.

This season, Coppelli will compete in the 13-14-years age bracket.

Ford would like for more youth to become involved in year-round swimming, but understands it’s a tough ordeal because Payson doesn’t offer such a team.

To compete, youths would most likely be forced to travel frequently to the Valley for practices and meets which can be a hardship on families.

For many years, Chris Giarrizzo — Emily’s mother — pushed to have some type of year-round swimming program in Payson, but in 2012 she and her family returned to their former home in Gilbert so Emily could train with Swim Neptune without traveling.

Since, the effort to have year-round swimming as been curtailed.

Following today’s meet, the Pikes will return to daily morning practices at Taylor before diving back into action June 29 in Payson against the visiting Prescott Swim Team. Warm up is at 8:30 a.m. and the meet begins at 9 a.m.

Spectators are welcome and there is no admission charge.

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