MONUMENT • Ryan Arata and Jonathan Littles were like aquatic prize fighters, two seniors going shoulder-to-shoulder in what several coaches called “The Race of the Season.”
Ultimately, Arata exacted revenge and won every time the state title hopefuls went head-to-head, and his Rangers topped Little’s squad 118-68 on Wednesday at the Monument Hill Country Club pool.
The anticipated race was the 100-yard freestyle, which both Arata and Littles entered with a win already to their credit (Arata had taken the 200 freestyle; Littles the 50 freestyle).
As the horn wailed, Littles slipped behind Arata by an ear’s length or two. Arata said he knew he had to get that early lead because of Littles’ sprinting ability at the end of races — but it wasn’t a generous lead by any means.
“I just wanted to get ahead early and just try and see if I could hold him off,” Arata said. “And I did.”
Crashing towards the cement wall, the Stanford signee stretched past the long stroke of the George Mason signee to win 48.45-48.81.
“He beat me at the Cheyenne Invitational by like a hundredth of a second in the 50 freestyle,” said Arata as he cracked a smile. “So I had to get him back.”
And then he got the knockout.
Arata and Littles anchored the final two relays on the overcast day, and Arata just kept winning.
First, in the 200 freestyle relay, Arata beat Littles’ split by .16 seconds as the Rangers’ team edged the Indians’ by .19 seconds. Then before they could dry off, Lewis-Palmer and Arata went 3.21.18 in the 400 freestyle relay while Cheyenne Mountain and Littles went 3:22.79 as the meet came to a close.
“It’s always fun to swim against him,” Littles said. “It’s kind of a rivalry, but we don’t usually swim the same events or see each other at state. So it’s weird but fun.”
The 5A Rangers won nine of the 12 events led by Arata’s four wins. They’ve now beaten three of the top 4A teams in the area; including Air Academy, Coronado and now the Indians.
“You know the 4A, 5A difference isn’t really that much,” Lewis-Palmer coach Alan Arata said. “When we were 4A we didn’t look at Cherry Creek and say ‘Oh they’re 5A.’ Cheyenne Mountain is a good team. They have more swimmers than we do and they have their own pool — so they have a lot of advantages compared to us.
All we want to do is go race and try to beat who we are facing.”
And for the 57th consecutive dual, the Rangers did just that.