It was mid-March when Coronado swimming coach David Stump got a phone call from senior Parker Evans.
Only bad news comes that early in the season, and this was no exception.
Evans, the defending Division I state champion in the 50-yard freestyle, had been diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“He was worried about the team,” Stump said. “And I told him, ‘You need to take care of yourself first. Swimming, if it happens, great, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’
“I thought it was a testament to his character that his first thought wasn’t, ‘I need to get this done’ it’s, ‘How does this affect the team?’ “
Two months after doctors told Evans he had cancer, the standout won two individual titles and helped Coronado to the team championship at the Division I Sunrise Region boys and girls swimming meet Saturday at UNLV’s Buchanan Natatorium.
Evans won his third straight region title in the 50 freestyle with a school-record time of 21.39 seconds and finished first in the 100 freestyle (47.75) as Cougars earned their third consecutive team title with 493 points.
Foothill, led by double-winners Kaden Jesperson (200 individual medley, 500 freestyle) and Denver Renner (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly), was second with 418, and Green Valley took third with 372.
The top two finishers in each event qualify for the state meet Saturday at Buchanan Natatorium. The third-place finisher with the best time between the Sunrise and Sunset regions also advances to state.
“It was a pretty fast recovery,” Evans said. “I’m not scared. It was just a life event that happened, and it’s definitely been a learning lesson to fight through whatever you go through.”
Evans said he discovered a lump while he was in the shower, and after being diagnosed, he was treated at UCLA Medical Center. Evans missed the Cougars’ first meet before returning April 2.
“I’m just glad I can still have kids,” he joked.
Evans, who plans to swim and play water polo at Orange Coast College (California), was Coronado’s lone individual winner Saturday and was named the swimmer of the meet. He set personal bests in the 50 and 100 freestyles and also swam the anchor leg of the 200 freestyle in 20.86 seconds to help the Cougars win that race going away.
Teammate Sean Marchewski was second to Evans in both individual events.
“I’m so happy with myself and my whole team,” Evans said. “We all did really good today. Definitely, coming back from fighting cancer, it was kind of crazy. I just tried to move on and focus on what’s next. Now, I’m just focused on state. Hopefully I can drop some more time.”
Micah Phillips of Canyon Springs won a hotly contested 100 backstroke race, out-touching Coronado’s Brandon Nellis by five-hundreths of a second (55.83 to 55.88).
Canyon Springs’ Jacob Rendon took first in the 100 breaststroke and was the only competitor under one minute in the race (59.57).
Coronado and Green Valley tied for the girls title with 520 points. The Gators won every event and set six region records in the process, including the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay, but Coronado’s second-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay clinched a share of the championship.
“I’ve never seen a tie in a meet with this many points. It’s a little crazy,” Stump said. “We had a lot of really well-swum races. We had a lot of kids that were going out where they needed to get out in the first half of the race, but their back halves were really, really solid.”
Green Valley’s Abby Richter lowered her own region mark in the 100 backstroke (54.62) and set the record in the 200 freestyle at 1:48.98, which is the best time in state or region meet history, according to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association record book.
Victoria Navarro also set two region records, edging the 50 freestyle mark by one-tenth of a second (23.82), while smashing the 500 freestyle record by nearly seven seconds (4:51.35).
“I love high school season because we’re all such a team here and we support each other so much,” Navarro said. “As a team, winning just shows all our commitment, all of our sacrifice for the sport, because swimming takes a lot out of you. I think this shows how much we’ve been trying so hard, and I’m so proud of the team.”