Chaparral’s girls swim team

Chaparral’s girls swim team dominated the field to capture its seventh straight state title during the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I swim championship.

A tumultuous 2020 swim and dive season in Arizona has come to a close with Chaparral, one of the state’s most dominant programs, sweeping the Division I boys and girls finals and capturing two state titles. 

The Firebirds’ boys were the first to capture the championship at the highest division in the state, scoring 302 total points.

The girls scored 452.5 points, vastly separating themselves from the rest of the field.

“The biggest thing is we got them together before the season and the week leading up to state and talked about the opportunities and how it’s an all-team effort,” Chaparral coach Russell Krzyzanowski said. “We explained the importance of making every swim count. For us, the mantra is to just compete. I think we delivered.” 

Chaparral started the boys finals in a relatively slow manner in comparison to years past. The 200-yard individual medley relay team, which entered the event with the fastest qualifying time, placed third overall behind Pinnacle and Sunnyslope. In the 200-yard freestyle, a historically strong event for the Firebirds, Chaparral swimmers placed seventh and below. 

Braden Walters made up some ground in the 200-yard individual medley with a second-place finish. Reid Brophy placed seventh in the event to secure points for Chaparral. 

Krzyzanowski said he felt like the environment may have played a role in his team’s slow start. Due to the ongoing pandemic, no fans or media were allowed into the event. 

Chaparral seemed to have flipped a switch out of the break. Jasper Brown – who placed fourth overall – Ethan Mindlin, Joel Maldonado and Grey Gartin all scored points in the 100-yard butterfly. The relay team followed that event with a fifth-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle and third place in the 200 freestyle. 

Ethan Mindlin’s second-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke was the highest a Chaparral swimmer placed in the meet. Despite no individual champions, the points added up in favor of the Firebirds. 

While the boys started slow in the morning session, the Chaparral girls made a statement early. 

The relay team of Greer Pattison, Riley Courtney, Morgan Brophy and Ashley Strouse won gold in the 200-yard medley. Strouse then went on to win the title in the 200-yard freestyle. Samantha Krew, Ava Cunningham and Grace Dunn finished behind Strouse to sweep the medal stand. 

Greer Pattison won the 50-yard freestyle, while Brophy won the 100-yard butterfly. Strouse also went on to win the 500-yard freestyle while Cunningham placed third. The relay team also won the 200 and 400 freestyles while the girls placed as high as second in several other events to win the title. 

The championship wins by Chaparral in Division I came despite adversity.

 All year, the school has battled through an outbreak of COVID-19. At one point, more than 200 families at the school had to be quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus. 

Brophy, which has won the title 32 years in a row, was forced to pull out of the competition just days prior due to an outbreak on the team. Krzyzanowski knows that could have been his team. 

“We knew we had to watch ourselves and separate because you never know where it could be,” Krzyzanowski said. “It’s an unpredictable year and that’s what Brophy was faced with. It could have been us in their shoes or any other team.”

Aside from the pandemic, Chaparral had a last-minute coaching change in August. 

Richie Krzyzanowski, Russell’s brother, was dismissed by the district after an investigation revealed he had allegedly falsified documents while applying for a principal’s certificate from the state. Richie had previously led the Chaparral girls to six straight state championships before his dismissal. The girls were also named the public high school national champion by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association during the 2018-19 season. 

Krzyzanowski was overcome with emotion at the thought of honoring his brother with the state titles. He said Richie was loved by the program and taught him everything he knew to fill his shoes as a successful coach. 

“It feels good,” Krzyzanowski said, fighting back tears. “My brother has prepared me for this moment. He’s my best friend. I don’t miss a beat because we’ve gone through it together for five years with me under his wing. 

“The reason why I was prepared for this was because of my brother.”