Girls’ State Championship Recap (5A – Big Schools)
The Texas girls’ 5A State Championship as of late (last year excluded), has come down to some wild finishes, and this year’s was maybe the most exciting of them all.
Headed into the final 400 free relay on Saturday at the Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center, the Austin Westlake girls held a lead and controlled their own destiny. The Southlake Carroll girls, who were the defending team champions, were trying to catch up, but fortunately for them, had saved their best lineup to stack the last relay. On the contrary, Austin Westlake’s best two relays were the 200 medley and 200 free relays, which gave Carroll some hope.
The Carroll girls did what they needed to do, which was win the last relay in a 3:28.61, with a team of Casey Rose, Rebecca Upton, Alexa Baran, and Emily Gibson (all seniors aside from Rose). The Austin Westlake girls, however, finished 5th in that relay (.11 seconds ahead of 6th-place Cinco Ranch and .15 seconds ahead of 7th-place Allen), which was exactly what they needed to do to secure the team title.
With a final margin of just a single point, and the first-through-5th place teams separated by only 14 points, all of the big players swam exceedingly well at this meet, and created an exciting, ultra-competitive team battle. What’s even more amazing is that three of the top five teams all came out of the same District (Southlake Carroll, Keller, and Keller Central), and this is in a state where most of the advancement is done by placing, with some allowances at the state meet for “at large” spots.
Girls meet top 5 teams:
1. Austin – Westlake 160
2. Southlake – Carroll 159
3. Kingwood 148
4. Keller – 147
5. Keller Central – 146
The Westlake girls started off the meet by winning – unsurprisingly, as everything was in this meet – a very close 200 medley relay. The team of Alyssa Wolemath, Catriona MacGregor, Victoria Edwards, and Maggie Taylor combined for a 1:45.24, just beating-out runners-up Keller High School in 1:45.55.
Though Keller got out to a great start thanks to their super-senior Laura Norman (25.48 backstroke split), Westlake made up a lot of ground with – get this - three freshmen on the last three legs of their relay. That included a 24.42 fly split from Edwards. Both teams had identical 23.66 splits (again, both anchors were freshmen).
The Texas A&M commit Norman was the star of the meet, and was one of two individual double winners on the day. After the medley relay, she had a pretty quick turnaround into the 200 IM for her first individual event. In that race, she led three seniors on the podium with a 2:01.73 lifetime-best in the 200 IM. She knocked two seconds off in that event throughout the Texas high school postseason. Carroll’s Emily Gibson (2:03.52) and Keller Central’s Madison Straight (2:04.30) close behind. As one would expect, Norman again did a lot of damage on the backstroke race of this IM, with a 29.08 for the only sub-30 split.
This all lead into the 100 backstroke, where Norman was just able to hold on over some impressive freshmen for a 54.44 win. Edwards from Westlake was 2nd in 54.61, and Eisenmann from Lewisville’s Kara Eisenmann was 3rd in 56.53. Eisenmann and Edwards are both freshmen.
Three of Texas A&M’s four best 100 backstrokers are either juniors or seniors this year, so Norman’s addition to that group will be a welcomed one.
The runner-up in that 100 back, the freshman Edwards, is on her way to stardom as well. She won the girls’ 100 fly, which is the 5th-best time in 5A meet history in the event, and the fastest by a freshman. She’s behind a quartet of four NCAA qualifiers on that list, including Casey Clark (Rice), Natalie Hinds (Florida), Lily Moldenhauer (Texas), and the World Record holder Dana Vollmer (Cal, post-grad).
The Texas girls didn’t have a great state meet in sprinting; for example, nobody at this state meet went under 23 seconds in the 50 free or on any leg of the 200 free relay.
But Kingwood’s Lexie Lupton is a bonafied sprint star, even if she didn’t clear that significant, if arbitrary, boundary on Saturday. She was a 22.8 at the Region 4 Championship meet to qualify for the state event, and was a 23.02 at state to take home the title. She was the other swimmer to double-up, combining that swim with a 50.23 in the 100 freestyle for another win.
She’s just a junior, as is the runners-up in both of those races – Rockwall’s Raena Eldridge (23.18 – 50 free), and Houston-Memorial’s Alexandra Buscher (50.94 – 100 free).
Buscher is the kind of versatile freestyler who could fit in well at somewhere like Georgia. She won’t begin her serious recruiting cycle for a few months, but she definitely caught some eyes with a win in the 200 freestyle, going 1:47.78 to just beat-out Austin High School’s Laine Reed (a Virginia commit – 1:48.12) and McKinney’s Sammie Hashbarger (a Texas commit – 1:48.26).
Atascocita High School, who was 6th overall at this meet, won the girls’ 200 free relay with a come-from-behind anchor by senior Britney Fant (23.74). She was the only senior on that relay, and was joined by Jordan Wheeler, Bethany Petersen, and Sarah Wehrmeister en route to the win. They topped Keller’s 1:36.17 (Keller led the whole race until that point) that included a 23.74 Norman lead-off.
Atascocita has bloomed into a swimming power in a hurry. The school only opened in 2006, but having the benefit of splitting off a large group of swimmers from historic Texas power Kingwood, they had a good pool of talent at their disposal. The program’s now far from an underdog with over 3,000 students (housed in separate buildings around the community – it’s a really innovative and interesting system).
Cy Falls’ Ashlynn Peters won the 1-meter diving event over Lewisville – Marcus’ Mackenzie Willborn.
And finally, the remaining unmentioned event champion is actually two event champions. That’s because there was a tie in the girls’ 100 breaststroke between Seven Lakes’ Lindsay Shabet and Marian Yurchisin from the Northside Health Careers magnet school in San Antonio. They put up identical 1:03.82′s, though their swims were far from identical. Yurchisin was more than half-a-body-length ahead at the 50 yard mark, but Shabet made it all up on the back-half of the race.
Memorial’s Briana Burns, from the same district as Shabet, was 3rd in 1:04.95.
The boys’ meet wasn’t quite as dramatic in the final relay, as the Southlake Carroll boys, led by their senior Jonathan Roberts, won their 4th-straight team title: an impressive run in a state where parity seems to be the name-of-the-game more often than not.
Roberts, a Texas commit, won both of his individual events for the second-straight year. He did, however, tweak his entries a little this season.
He defended his title in the men’s 500 free with an unbelievably-fast 4:16.90, winning the race by ten seconds and crushing Michael Klueh’s State Record. That is one of the top-five times in the 500 free in high school history.
He won that race last year with a 4:20, and went largely unchallenged as he was nine seconds ahead of his closest competitor. This year, the state was much stronger in the event as a whole, with Richardson-Pearce’s Blake Maczka going a 4:26.74 for 2nd, and Roberts’ teammate Connor Dobbs placing 3rd in 4:29.15.
Last season, Roberts swam away with the 200 free title as well, and so this season, he went after a different event: the 100 backstroke. He put up a lifetime best of 48.58 in prelims, and matched it with a 48.65 in finals for the win and the only swim under 50 seconds.
There were some other swimmers in this race who will surely push well under the 50-second barrier in years to come, however. Houston – Memorial’s Cooper Wozencraft was 2nd in the 100 backstroke in 50.78 as just a freshman, and Dallas Jesuit’s Brendan Feehery was 3rd in 51.19 as just a sophomore. Another freshman, Glen Cowan from Cinco Ranch, also made the A final with a 51.25 in prelims.
Editor’s note: Though UIL competition is limited to almost exclusively public schools, with two separate private school championship organizations, Dallas Jesuit is one of two private schools that compete in the UIL. The other is Strake Jesuit High School in Houston.
In the men’s 100 fly, Harrison Jones from Bryan High School took the win in 48.76, beating out Kyle Hendricks from Klein Collins (49.94) and Duncan Lee from Plano (49.98). Wozencraft made another final in this event, placing 5th in 50.39.
Jones has no relation that we’re aware of to the All-American diver Harrison Jones, though the diver’s brother did compete for most of his freshman season at nearby Texas A&M University last year.
Saturday was a big day for Texas-committed swimmers. Future Longhorn Jared Butler from Rockwall-Heath won the men’s 200 IM in 1:47.53. That performance shows what Butler’s improvement curve has been like in the last year – at the 2013 state meet, he qualified for state in only the 200 free, and placed just 9th. He’s now dropped almost 4 seconds in his 200 IM during his senior year alone.
Taking 2nd in that 200 IM was Aaron Moran from Brandeis in 1:50.99, as part of his team’s runner-up performance.
Klein High School’s Robert Slaughter, who didn’t even qualify for last year’s state meet in an individual event, picked up his first state title as a junior in the men’s 50 free. There, he split a 20.61 to beat Keller’s Luke Mankus (20.84) and Brandeis’ Aaron Brysch (21.03).
Brysch would come back after the diving break to win the 100 free in 45.12, beating fellow senior Davidmichael Bernal from Cinco Ranch (45.43) and Leonardo Sanchez from El Paso – Eastwood (45.47).
Sanchez took the title in the 200 free with no Roberts present; but Roberts’ absence didn’t mean the absence of competition. The top three swimmers in this race had a heck of a battle, with Plano’s Kyle Whieldon finishing hard, and Klein’s Harry Sale fading at the end, to leave Sanchez for the win in 1:38.33. Whieldon was 2nd in 1:38.43, and Sale was 3rd in 1:39.25. Both Sale and Sanchez are juniors, while Whieldon is a senior.
In the final individual event of the meet, Migs Martin from Taft high school in San Antonio swooped in and upended a repeat-party for a pair from the Woodlands. he took his first state title, while pair of club teammates battled it out for second in the boys’ 100 breast. Ryan Sorensen the defending champion was 2nd in 56.20, and Jonathan Tybur of College Park took 3rd in 56.24. Those two were 1-2 last season, and while Sorensen’s time was about the same as what won it last year, but Tybur closed the gap in a hurry to make things very close.
In relay action, the Southlake Carroll boys won the 200 medley relay in 1:34.93 to start the meet, with three seniors and a lone freshman. Roberts led them off in 22.39, and was followed by senior Austin Arkes (27.16), freshman Gus Karau (23.51), and senior Kris Kolde (21.87).
Clements took 2nd in 1:35.29, which included a 26.21 on the breaststroke leg from Jonathan Marlatt, and College Park’s A relay (also with a freshman and three seniors) was 3rd in 1:35.75. The aforementioned Tybur split 25.65 on the breaststroke leg, which was easily the best split of the field.
In the 200 free relay, Brandeis won in 1:24.79, with a team of Aaron Brysch, Brandon Parker, Aaron Moran, and Tommy Ervin all splitting 21-lows. Plano was 2nd in 1:24.96, though they had two guys (Duncan Lee and Kyle Whieldon) split sub-21. Klein wasn’t far behind in 3rd in that relay in 1:25.01, with Slaughter putting in a might 20.33-second anchor.
Closing the meet, Klein won with a combination of Harry Sale (45.79), Eric Akins (46.13), Eli Hoenshel (26.52), and Robert Slaughter (45.47) – for a total time of 3:03.91. Brandeis was 2nd in 3:04.05, and Carroll, led off by a 44.97 from Roberts, was 3rd in 3:05.61.
Marshall High School’s Christopher Law won the men’s diving event, notching a tight win over Reagen’s Nathan Gonzales.