If you were looking for a good show with your $8 ticket admittance for the New Mexico High School Swimming Championships, you got that and A LOT more. The most prestigious event in the New Mexico swimming community took place today at Albuquerque Academy and like all good competitions there were its fair share of upsets and records.
The girls’ title was led nearly the entire way by Eldorado but La Cueva kept it close long into the afternoon with Albuquerque Academy Chargers in third. Eldorado’s depth in both areas of the pool would stand to be matchless when their divers Lauren Martinez, Meaghan Martinez, and Tamara Begay took first, second, and sixth respectively in diving. With Anika Apostalon still to come and the dominating 200 Free Relay for the Chargers, many points would be stacked in their favor but it would not be enough to defend their title. La Cueva suffered valuable disqualifications in both the 100 Breast and the 400 Free Relay late in the meet that would drop them out of contingency and allow Las Cruces to dip into third for the overall standings in the meet.
The Eldorado boys defended their title from last year in a dogfight battle between La Cueva, Rio Rancho, and Albuquerque Academy. Thirteen points was the deciding factor between first and third with La Cueva taking the runner-up position and Rio Rancho boys knocking Albuquerque Academy off the podium for the first time since anyone can remember in a long time.
What was sure to be a back and forth battle on both the girls and the boys side in the team standings started out with a bang as the veteran defending girl champions Albuquerque Academy took on the youngsters of Eldorado in the 200 Medley Relay. Apostalon led off for the Chargers with a blistering 25.71 backstroke leg for the nearly two second margin to be made up immediately by Eldorado’s Kyra Mohns (JR) breaststroke leg of 30.56. In the water dove Freshman Ellie Rivenbark for Eldorado with a six tenth lead over the Chargers until Gillian St. John outswims her 24.98 to 25.06 for the Chargers to regain the lead. An unbelievable split for St. John who has never posted faster than a 59.39 in the 100 Fly! And despite a final charge by Eldorado Freshman Kelsey Robinson, Albuquerque Academy takes the 200 Medley Relay 1:48.29 to 1:48.78.
However, the girls race turned out to be just a warm-up compared to the boys’ medley relay where a Cinderella team from Hobbs in eastern New Mexico took the prize from the most established, recognized, and experienced swimmers in the Metro Area of Albuquerque. Hobbs relay team of Daniel Cornejo, Tyler Drake, Joshua Espinoza, and Cory Dean won in 1:36.45. Dean is the only member of the relay with any significant club experience (Caprock) and Espinoza would later be seventh in the diving competition.
The first of just a few real good matchups of the day came next in the girls 200 Free where La Cueva’s defending champion and state record holder Nika Fellows (JR) faired off against Academy’s St. John. St. John usually concentrates her efforts in the 50 and the 100 Free, but it was thought she could challenge Fellows to be the first girl swimming in the state sub 1:50. Surely enough she took the early lead and led until the 175 mark, until Fellows endurance and late push kick as a Summer Juniors distance qualifier was too much to overcome. Fellows reset her record and achieves the honors by swimming a 1:49.73. Fellows would later double her crown in the 500 Free dominating the field in 4:56.21.
In the Girls 50 Free Volcano Vista Senior and Navy commit Olivia Morrell electrified the natatorium when she won in 23.63 over Academy’s St. John by .01 having just finished the 200. Madison Burns of Alamogordo was third in 23.96 and Eldorado’s Rivenbark was fourth in 24.39. That puts four girls in New Mexico under the NCSA Junior National standard which is a great display of speed for the state. The boys 50 went to Eldorado Senior Ian Roberson in 21.56 with Hobbs’ Sophomore Dean taking second in 21.67.
The Boys 100 Fly was dominated by Freshman boys going first through fourth. Academy’s Anthony Kim won in 50.85, Las Cruces’ Kyle Temple second 51.87, Sandia Prep’s Kevin Benavidez was third in 54.82, and Rio Rancho’s Trinity Medley was fourth in 55.05. This will be a good rivalry event for the state to watch develop over the next three years. A freshman also took seventh.
The second of three good matchups on paper came in the Boys 100 Back with La Cueva’s Tillery and Academy’s Kim. Both had victories earlier in the meet with Tillery winning the 200 Free (1:41.99). The two were neck and neck the entire way but Tillery was able to bullet his hand on the wall first with a 51.01 to Kim’s 51.21. It was a bit of a shocker to not see a state record broken here as Tillery had been 50.88 at Winter Juniors and the record is 50.69. Clovis Senior and future University of Texas PB in Midland swimmer Brock Smith was third in 54.63.
To close out the meet in individual events would come a pair of gigantic upsets by Juniors to Seniors in the 100 Breast. Hannah Veseth of Sandia High School took it out over a second faster than the next contender and held it through the 75 mark but when her body started to give out, in came the closing speed and power of Eldorado’s Mohns who thrived to the finish in 1:08.53 to Veseth’s 1:08.58. On the boys side it would be Cibola’s Edgar Melchor persevering after the disappointing disqualification in the 50 yesterday to overtake Rio Rancho’s Nik Balmer 59.15 to 59.28. Much like Veseth, Melchor also took it out blistering fast in 27.40 but was able to hold off Balmer’s final push to the wall. Third went to Hobbs’ Drake (59.43) while Las Cruces’ Connor Lambert took fourth in 59.61.
Little did spectators know that in the Boys 400 Free Relay they would be in for one last treat to last them until next year. The points were close, but what was even better were the leadoffs stepping on to the blocks. La Cueva’s Klein, who had a pair of wins in the 200 Medley (1:53.49) and the 100 Free (47.06) was in Lane 4 while over in Lane 6 was Academy’s Kim. The two have a deep rivalry in the state. In fact just last weekend Kim broke Klein’s state 13-14 200 Back record by mere a .13 going 1:56.48. With Klein’s earlier win in the individual and Kim striking at the state 13-14 boys 100 Free record, they made it good all the way to the end. Klein defends his title from earlier in the day going even faster at 46.98 while Kim goes 47.09.
Albuquerque Academy’s Anika Apostalon bettered three of her own records improving yesterday’s 50 Free (22.87) and 100 Free (49.41) while resetting her 100 Back record from a year ago to 53.78. The La Cueva Boys 400 Free Relay team of Stephen Klein, Luke Freimanis, Zach Weeks, and Kris Tillery also bettered the state record mark.