State champ leads CCHS swim to highest finish everApr 22, 2021 08:47AM ● By Catherine Garrett
Corner Canyon High sophomore Karson Spencer won the 100 butterfly at the 6A state championships Feb. 20 at Brigham Young University in leading the Chargers boys team to a best-ever third place finish. (Photo credit Keith Bangerter)
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
Corner Canyon sophomore Karson Spencer won the 100 butterfly at the 6A state swimming championships Feb. 20 at Brigham Young University in a school-record time of 51.11 seconds. His finish helped the boys squad to third place, the highest finish in school history.
“I was super happy about winning,” Spencer said. “It was like a very surreal moment I didn’t think I’d have the pleasure of experiencing. It was the fastest I’ve ever swam.”
Freshman Stephanie Guzman-De La Hoz finished third in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 breaststroke to help the girls team match their best finish of third place from a year ago.
“I knew going in that I was seeded high, but I didn’t have any idea how it would turn out or where I would place,” Guzman-De La Hoz said. “It felt good to go out and push through with how tired I was and finish so high.”
Also earning All-State recognition at the state meet—while setting school records—were the 200 medley relay team of Spencer, Steele Smith, McKay Larsen and Ryan McNeill, which placed third along with McKay Larsen (fourth, 200 IM), Ethan Bangerter (eighth, 200 free) and Spencer (eighth, 100 backstroke). Lily Afualo’s sixth-place finishes in the 200 free and 500 free events as well as Larsen’s seventh-place showing in the 100 breast and Britta Catmull’s seventh place in the 100 breast were also All-State performances for Corner Canyon.
Additionally, McNeill (50 free), Bangerter (500 free) and McNeill, Larsen, Smith and Jaxon Barlow (200 free relay) set school records at the state meet.
“The kids did a fabulous job,” CCHS swimming coach Patrick Thurman said.
“Both the boys and girls killed it,” Spencer said.
Guzman-De La Hoz said she was proud of the team’s effort despite a hard year with all the challenges COVID-19 brought. “There were times we couldn’t even get into the pool and it was really hard, but we made it through and everyone did amazing,” she said. “I’m pretty proud of everyone.”
Spencer, son of Kameron and Aarin Spencer of Draper, battled back from knee surgery last year where he was simply a spectator at the state championships. But, it was while watching the 100 fly event in 2020 that coach Thurman leaned over to Spencer and said, “Next year, that’s gonna be you, Karson.” That statement fueled Spencer who “trained super hard” to return to the pool faster and stronger.
The sophomore has been swimming since he was 10 and then moved up to the competitive ranks a couple years later. “I really liked swimming and I wasn’t half bad either, which always helps, so I stuck with it,” Spencer, who hopes to swim in college, said.
He said swimming every day has taught him persistence, among other valuable life lessons. “You have to gain a level of grit and be persistent to come to practices and be persistent to want to better yourself because, in the end, your performance is based off of what you do, not your team,” he said.
Guzman-De La Hoz, the daughter of Ana Maria De La Hoz of Sandy, was signed up by her mother for a summer swim team five years ago and fell in love with the sport, the coaches and socializing with her team.
“I wasn’t the best at all and had no clue what I was doing, but I loved it,” Guzman-De La Hoz said. By the fall, she was a state qualifier and continued to improve and win races. A couple of years in, she felt she was stalling a bit in her progress. “I swam every day, trained hard and was putting in extra work, but I couldn’t figure out why my times weren’t dropping and I wasn’t improving,” she said. ‘But, I just pushed through that. I’m not gonna lie—swimming is really hard and it works your whole body, but I have learned so much about competition, determination and motivation that has helped me to grow in and out of the pool.”
Guzman-De La Hoz has her sights set on the 2022 state title in the 200 IM as the two placers above her in the event this year were seniors. Beyond that, she would like to compete in college in the sport that she said is known for being “90% mental and 10% skill.”