After 18 years leading the University of Missouri’s swimming and diving program, Brian Hoffer didn’t feel like it was a big step down coaching high school.
Not when the program is Phoenix Xavier Prep, which has won 27 girls state championships, including 14 in a row.
“Xavier is different,” he said. “It’s still a small-college feel. But totally different.”
Hoffer, the uncle of national age-group record holder Ryan Hoffer (a freshman at Scottsdale Chaparral), shows up at the Phoenix Swim Club every day and watches waves of talented swimmers get ready for practice.
He gets so many he has to conduct cuts.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with the commitment,” said Hoffer, who is back for his second season leading Xavier’s swim team. “I had girls on the team who knew they weren’t going to stay, but they came to practice every day and wanted to be part of it, whatever it takes.”
There are no superstars on this Xavier team, but plenty of girls capable of scoring points.
One of those is senior Maddy Brandt, who last year finished fourth in the 100-yard butterfly at 56.30 seconds and seventh in the 200 individual medley at 2 minutes, 12 seconds. She swam a faster preliminary at 2:10.46, which was five seconds faster than her sophomore season.
The butterfly is her specialty. The three girls who finished ahead of her last year at the Division I championships have graduated.
She dropped two seconds from her previous best time in the butterfly at state.
“I’m hoping to be under 55 in the butterfly and, in the 200 IM, whatever works out,” she said.
From his championship team last year at Xavier, Hoffer graduated three girls who got Division I spots: Kathleen Mulligan (Princeton), Hayden Walker (UCLA) and Madeline Wells (Pittsburgh).
Brandt teamed up with those three swimmers last year to help Xavier capture the state championship in the 200 medley relay at 1:45.83.
“Hopefully, I can win this year,” Brandt said. “My main goal is for our team to win. That’s the most important thing for me and everyone.”
The meets are fast and the competition among Xavier swimmers to get spots at state is fierce.
Hoffer was hoping to have sophomore Allie Worrall for the sprints, but he said she likely will miss the season because of a shoulder injury.
Junior sprinter Aimee Hatfield is expected to swim faster after missing the first four weeks of last season due to an injury.
Brandt is expected to be among the team leaders.
“She’s one of our team captains, a great person, a great leader,” Hoffer said. “But she’s still under the radar.”
Maybe not for long.