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High school swimming: Bengals favored to rule the 5A pool

PROVO — With more schools than ever calling Class 5A "home," the annual 5A swim meet has become quite the behemoth — not in terms of the actual size of the meet (the same number of entries were accepted this year that are always accepted), but in terms of what it took to qualify as one of those entries.

Accordingly, because more bodies than ever fought throughout the winter for coveted qualifying spots, the end product — this weekend's 5A state swimming championships — should be a whole lot of fast swimming.

The action gets underway at 5 p.m. Friday inside BYU's Richards Building with the first eight of 22 events, with the rest of the meet slated to begin at noon Saturday.

In general, the notion that it's harder to qualify for this year's state meet holds up when you break down the numbers. On the boys side, the slowest qualifying time in all 11 events is faster than last year, while on the girls side, the slowest qualifying time in five of 11 events is faster.

At the top, there's no question that the word "behemoth" aptly describes the team that towers over the rest of Class 5A — Brighton.

Indeed, the Bengals enter this weekend's meet as a big favorite to win on both the boys and girls sides. They qualified the maximum number of entries (32 of 32 individually) on the girls side and came close to the maximum (28 of 32 individually) on the boys side.

With all those entries in tote, Brighton's girls team will attempt to guide the Bengals back to the top of the state swimming scene for the first time in nearly a decade.

From 1982 to 2001, Brighton won the state's largest classification in girls swimming every single year. That amazing 20-year streak was subsequently broken by Skyline, which has won the past eight championships in 5A.

However, bolstered by a phenomenal freshmen class that's augmented by some super veterans, the Bengals are favored to dethrone Skyline and again rise to the top of the state.

Brighton enters this weekend's meet as a 121-point favorite (356-235) over Lone Peak on the girls side, with a number of teams positioned below those leading schools.

Individually, defending 5A girls Swimmer of the Meet Kim Welch of Lone Peak will attempt to do some amazing things in her final high school meet, Brighton junior Amanda Barrett will try to break the state record in the 500 freestyle, and several other swimmers are also expected to shine.

On the boys side, Brighton enters this weekend's meet with a projected point total of 329 points to lead Bingham (235.5) and American Fork (233.5). From top to bottom, the Bengals have a nice blend of veterans and youngsters.

Like Welch, defending 5A boys Swimmer of the Meet McKay King of American Fork will attempt to do some special things in his final high school meet.

However, all eyes will be on Brighton freshman phenom Long Gutierrez, who has a legit chance to break state records at the age of 14.

Gutierrez will swim the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly this weekend, having set a 5A record in the 100 fly two weeks ago.

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com