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West Jordan Journal

West Jordan swim team looking for progress, continued improvement

Nov 30, 2023 01:09PM ● By Josh McFadden

Despite facing some odds, the West Jordan swim team continues to work hard and show improvement. (Photo courtesy Sara Mitchell)

With a host of challenges in its way that many teams don’t face, the West Jordan swim team is doing its best to focus on having a successful season. 

The Jaguars have a lot of team members who have little swimming experience, not to mention the inconvenience of not having a home pool to use for meets and practice. Still, the team is maintaining a positive outlook. The team’s unity and strong bond help get them through difficult times. 

“Every year, the swim team builds such strong bonds with each other,” head coach Sara Mitchell said. “They are among the most close-knit, supportive and happy teams at West Jordan. I think the athletes' willingness to branch out and try new events keeps them fresh and motivated. They set big goals. They are ambassadors for their sport, and many of them are passionately dedicated.”

Because so many swimmers on the West Jordan team are new to the sport, Mitchell expects to see significant improvement throughout the season. She anticipates that a large portion of the swimmers will have big drops in their race times and much better technique as the year progresses. West Jordan has sent swimmers to state the past two years, and Mitchell hopes to make it three years in a row this coming February at the state meet. The team has set a goal to get a relay team to state, too. 

As if it’s not hard enough to compete when many foes have more swimmers with years of experience, the Jaguars don’t even have a home. 

West Jordan High School, like other schools in the Jordan District, doesn’t have a swimming pool. The Jaguars have practiced in the past at the Gene Fullmer Rec Center. However, the facility is shutting down for two months for maintenance, so the Jaguars have had to relocate and swim at different times of the day. Fortunately, they have found temporary refuge at the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center where they will practice this winter. The change hasn’t been easy, but Mitchell and the swimmers are trying to take everything in stride.

“The distance and change in times is a challenge for some students with transportation and schedule conflicts,” Mitchell said. “I think the key for working through both of those issues will be commitment and discipline and a healthy dose of patience and humor. They are already very committed and dedicated people. Many of them are involved in multiple extra-curriculars, hold part-time jobs and are excellent students. So, applying that commitment to swimming, plus having patience with the challenges, because there's always going to be some obstacles in sport and in life.”

Senior 100-butterly swimmer Danny Oliver, junior Yeshoua Negrete (200 individual medley), junior Jaycee Garcia (50 freestyle), sophomore Luke Mitchell (100 backstroke) and junior Diego Munoz (50 freestyle) are among the standouts on the West Jordan team. 

“We have leaders in every grade level and a pretty diverse group of swimmers,” Mitchell said. “We strive to have a very well-rounded team. We don't have the numbers to have our athletes specialize in just two events, so they all have to step up across multiple strokes and distances.”

Mitchell specifically highlighted her top swimmers and their abilities in the pool. 

“Danny, Yeshoua and Jaycee were voted team captains this year, and I think the whole team looks up to them—not only for their success in the water but for their enthusiasm for the whole team, the way they encourage those around them,” she said. “Luke Mitchell is a well-rounded swimmer who is putting in double practices to build the strength and endurance for any event he's asked to swim. Diego Munoz is so focused that he has already seen exceptional improvements in his times in the shorter freestyle events and is trying to branch out into other strokes this year. Like I mentioned, all of my returning swimmers made the commitment to come back, and they always try to bring a friend. Their recruitment is a big part of our team's success each year.”

The Jaguars might not bring home a Class 5A title this season, but Mitchell has helped to work wonders with the program. When she began her tenure as coach, fewer than 10 swimmers were on the squad, and a succession of coaches had come through every year or two. The team was on the brink of shutting down, which was a sad note considering the boys team had won a state title as recently as 2008.

Now, Mitchell is hoping to continue the growth the program has seen recently. She would love to see the girls team add numbers to its squad, too. 

“I'm really grateful for the support we have from the high school administration (Principal Mike Hutchings, Athletic Director Carlson Boudreaux),” she said. “I believe we've exceeded their expectations with the growth and success of our team and that swim is on the school's radar more than it was previously. My ultimate goal is to restore the team to its former glory and then keep up the momentum. I would love to see more girls join the sport, because with a balanced girls and boys team, we could really be a threat. And I would like to see more of the club swimmers in West Jordan boundaries see the benefits of staying at West Jordan to really make an impact.” λ