Palo Verde swimming coach Brent Gonzalez wanted to show his appreciation to four of his seniors.
His gift to Izzy Goldsmith, Hailey Houck, Adriana Piccininni and Kasdyn Rafie was the 400-yard freestyle relay.
“I put them on the relay as a way to go out,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of hard work in those girls. It was just nice seeing that because they’ve been here, helping us get back on top. It was special because I’ve known that group of girls for the last four years.”
The college-bound quartet won the final race of the Division I Sunset Region boys and girls swimming and diving meet Saturday — a swimming curtain call — to cap off the Panthers’ second straight girls team title.
Goldsmith, Houck and Erica Sullivan each won two individual events for the Panthers, who scored 641 points, improving on last year’s impressive total. Bishop Gorman (348) was second, followed by Desert Oasis (228½).
Palo Verde captured its 16th consecutive boys team title with 493½ points as Dylan Sweikert won the 50 and 100 freestyles.
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.
“We were swimming to qualify for state, because that’s been the whole goal all year for both teams, to try to repeat as state champions,” Gonzalez said. “We knew it started here, how we swam at regionals.”
Goldsmith, who is headed to UCLA, won her fourth region title in the 100 breaststroke (1 minute, 6.79 seconds) and successfully defended her 50 freestyle crown (24.07).
Houck, a Cal Poly commit, edged teammate Grace Siebmann in the 200 individual medley (2:07.44 to 2:07.89), as the Panthers nabbed the top four places in the event. Houck also led a 1-2-3-4 Palo Verde finish in the 100 butterfly, touching in 58.12.
Sullivan swept the distance freestyle events, taking the 200 in 1:51.04 and the 500 in 5:01.19. Teammate Reese Lamph was second in both events.
Allie Emery added a first-place finish in the 100 freestyle (52.32) for Palo Verde.
“Sunrise, swimming first, showed how fast they were,” Gonzalez said. “So, our kids had to step up and swim just as fast to make sure they qualified for state. We did what we had to do. Get in there and get to state.”
The Panthers were pushed for most of the 400 freestyle relay by Bishop Gorman before a strong anchor leg by Goldsmith. Palo Verde touched in 3:38.12, nearly two seconds ahead of the Gaels.
“I normally divide them up and all that, but I just said, you know what, we were in a position I knew we could do that, so I let them all four swim together,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t even tell the girls until today. It was just something to let them know. And they get one last swim with me.”
Bishop Gorman’s Rachel Boodt was the only individual winner not from Palo Verde, as she took the 100 backstroke in 58.09.
Sweikert was the lone individual champion for Palo Verde’s boys, as he took the 50 freestyle in 21.94 and held off Legacy’s Garrett Jones on the final lap to win the 100 freestyle in 47.81. He also swam an impressive anchor leg on the Panthers’ 200 medley relay that set a region record (1:40.01).
Bishop Gorman was second in the team boys standings with 329½ points, and Legacy (275) was third.
Legacy’s Tama Tuitama was first in the 200 individual medley (1:54.92) and 100 breaststroke (58.78), and he also helped the Longhorns set a region record in the 400 freestyle relay (3:16.20).
Centennial’s Carter Grimes won his second consecutive region title in the 100 butterfly (51.42) and added a win in the 100 backstroke (53.37).
“I was super excited to come here and race, and engage with other people,” Grimes said. “I’m really happy with the way I swam. I was close to a best time on my 100 fly, and we had some good relays, too, with my other teammates. Overall, it was a good day.”
Nick McDowell of Durango, a Purdue signee, pulled away from Palo Verde’s David Miller and Richie Selznick in the second half of the race to win the 200 freestyle (1:43.42). McDowell led wire-to-wire in winning the 500 freestyle (4:30.81).