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Though separated by approximately 256 miles, Murray and Cedar City high schools are neighbors when it comes to swimming.

The Spartans and Redmen share occupancy on pages 68 and 74 of the Utah High School Activities Association handbook. Under the heading "state championships," the schools are listed side-by-side (4A and 3A) as boys and girls titlists for 1994 and 1995.Will the trend continue in 1996?

"I hope tradition helps," Murray coach Larry Swim said in regard to this weekend's 4A and 3A state meets at BYU. "It'll be close. There's going to be some great races."

Led by defending two-event champion Carrie Olpin, who took top honors in the 50 and 100 freestyle, the Spartans - reloading after heavy graduation losses - are seeking their fourth consecutive crown. Judge Memorial, behind Amy Taylor (200, 500 free), is expected to provide the stiffest challenge for team honors. Hanalee Hawkins of Ogden (100 free) and Murray's Amy Olsen (100 back) headline a cast of other top individuals.

As for the boys, Cyprus standout Randy Belliston is one to watch. He will defend titles in both the 200 and 500 free. Timpview diving champion Aaron Russell is back as is 100 butterfly kingpin Mike Greene of Ogden.

Team honors are expected to come down (as in the girls) to Murray and Judge. Though lacking in individual contenders, depth is the Spartans' greatest ally. Dan Pooele in the breaststroke and the 200 medley relay team will likely lead Murray's quest for a fourth straight boys title.

In the 3A meet, Cedar City is seeking a three-peat in both boys and girls competitions.

"They thrive on competition, said Cedar City coach Dick Coston. "And the whole classification has gotten better."

After graduating nine swimmers, the Lady Reds may have trouble overcoming runner-up Park City this time around. Led by Rebecca Gerber, defending 3A champ in the 100 and 200 freestyle, the Miners are tough competitors - having spent another winter practicing at an outdoor facility.

Cedar City senior Annie Hodson is seeking her third consecutive springboard diving crown, while Dawn Fernley is expected to defend her 100 butterfly title.

The Redmen top a cast of boys contenders that includes Lehi and Park City. Two-event placer Brigham Young (200 IM, 500 free) no doubt hopes a top finish is the "right place." Teammate John Carlisle (100 breast) is another swimmer of note as is Steve Robison of Dixie in the 50 and 100 free.

The competiton begins with 4A diving tonight and concludes with sessions Friday and Saturday.