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SPORTS – “Kowallis swims to a fourth-place finish in state”

BEAR RIVER HIGH – By Cari Doutre – March 2, 2021

Jefferson Kowallis - Courtesy photo

It took one Bear River High School swimmer one season of training for it all to come down to one race, and one meet, to break a school record - and did so by taking home a top five finish at the 2021 4A state swimming championship meet on Feb. 13.

Jefferson Kowallis, a senior at Bear River High, took fourth place in the 4A state meet’s 100-yard breaststroke event with a time of 1:02.43. His time in the state preliminaries race of 1:01.28 was fast enough to break a new Bear River High record. Kowallis’ record setting finish in the preliminaries was nearly three seconds faster than his seed time going into this year’s state finals – a remarkable feat!

The school’s previous record was set by Alec Chournos, a 2018 graduate of Bear River High who went on to swim at the collegiate level at College of Idaho. He currently holds a school record there for the 200-yard backstroke.

“Jeff had an amazing year. He was focused on a goal and he didn't waiver from that goal. When he was at state, he was confident when he swam,” said Danny Esplin, head coach for the Bear River High boys’ swim team.
“I knew he would be fast, but he shocked me how fast he went. It almost didn't seem real when it happened,” Esplin added.

As the Bear River High swim team entered the 4A state championship tournament held Feb. 12-13, at the South Davis Recreation Center, 13 swimmers from the school had qualified for this year-end competition.

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The Bears previously placed sixth in Region 12 on Jan. 30. See’s previously posted article on the Region 12 swim meet below:

Finishing her senior year in the pool for Bear River High was Madyson Mickelsen. She finished the girls’ 200-yard freestyle race in seventh place individually with a time of 2:06.60 and took 10th in the 100-yard backstroke (1:07.79).

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Madyson Mickelsen - Courtesy photo

Sophomore Shannon Hyer finished in seventh place in the girls’ 100-yard butterfly event (1:06.78) and Morgan Mickelsen, a junior at Bear River High took 15th in the girls’ 200-yard IM at 2:32.22.

Kowallis took 13th place in the 4A state swim meet in the 200-yard IM at 2:12.18. He was also a contributing team member to the Bears’ 200-yard medley relay team that finished in 10th place in state this year. Joining Kowallis on that relay team was Keeghan Gibbs, Keeghan Hadley and Kelton Marshall.

Also in the top 20 at the 4A state meet for Bear River High, included the girls’ 200-yard freestyle relay team in 10th place with both Mickelsen sisters, Hyer and Braidyn Page on the team.

The boys’ 400-yard freestyle relay team took 12th place overall that included Marshall, Garrett Griffin, Carson Noorda and Hadley. The Bear River High boys’ 200-yard freestyle relay team took 15th place. That team included Kael Kowallis, Griffin, Noorda and Keeghan Gibbs. The girls’ 400-yard freestyle relay took 15th place and included Page, Auridia Castilo, Ashley Littlefield and Hyer.

“We had a great year this year in swimming. We had more kids qualify for state than we have the last few years. We were able to fight through the COVID and still have a successful season,” Esplin said.

For more on Kowallis, read Ammon’s Hunter’s article published Feb. 19, 2021, in the Bear River High School student newspaper, The Red Pages, below or at

“Senior Jefferson Kowallis Places 4th at State and Sets a New School Record”

By Ammon Hunter – The Red Pages - Feb. 19, 2021

On February 12, Senior Jefferson Kowallis at Bear River High School competed with his team in the state swim meet in Bountiful. There have been ups and downs over the course of the swim season and some records have previously been close to being broken. One of the swimmers who showed great potential in setting a new record is Jefferson Kowallis. In many previous meets, Kowallis came close to beating the school record for the 100 meter breaststroke, but has come short by just a few seconds. This particular section is a race where instead of peddling your arms through the water individually, they are peddling simultaneously. While this race may be difficult, Kowallis has been practicing every day with his team and is confident he will succeed in his goal. As well as hopefully breaking a school record, Kowallis also aims to place in the state meet. It won’t be easy as there are a couple of very talented swimmers. In most racing sports, good competition drives competitors to push their limits. However, when swimming, you're mostly face down in the water, only surfacing your face to take a quick breath. Kowallis states, “You can only really see someone if you're ahead of them.” He explained that having competition isn’t really a factor, so it all comes down to your own self determination. On February 12, all the work Kowallis put in during the season paid off. Kowallis was able to beat the previous 100 breaststroke record of 1:02 and set the new record at 1:01. Not only was he able to score the record, Kowallis also placed 4th in state. Most of his team probably weren’t surprised as they all know what a good swimmer Kowallis is, but achieving this win for his team is a great accomplishment.


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