Clovis swimmers optimistic for state

CHS coach Vince DeMaio thinks Alyssa Pyeatt can finish in the top eight in the 100-meter breaststroke. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

Timing is everything for the Clovis girls swim team.

The Lady Wildcats worked on relay exchanges in their final practice Thursday before the state swimming and diving championships today and Saturday in Albuquerque.

The fractions of a second between a good and bad exchange could decide whether the Lady Cats reach their goal making the finals in every event they compete in. A second could mean a difference of four or five spots. The top 16 during preliminaries advance to finals.

In its first two seasons, Clovis has not had an individual or relay team make the finals.

“Very small things make a big difference,” Clovis coach Vince DeMaio said.

The Lady Cats qualified for the 200- and 400-meter medley relays as well as the 200 freestyle.

Junior Alyssa Pyeatt is the only Lady Cat scheduled to compete in an individual event. She’ll race in the 100 breaststroke, and DeMaio has no doubt she can make the top eight.

“Alyssa can swim with just about anybody, and so can Amber (Espinoza),” DeMaio said.

Espinoza recently switched from butterfly to backstroke in the medley relays. Clovis had been struggling in the backstroke legs, but Erin Holland’s emergence in the butterfly (she won at Carlsbad two weeks ago) allowed Espinoza to move. Seniors Kristin Curtis and Mandi Benard, who were swimming the backstroke legs, can now concentrate on their stronger freestyle events.

No matter how Clovis does, they’ve already made school history. Pyeatt will be the first Lady Cat to compete in an individual event. Espinoza qualified in the 100 butterfly, but after pulling a muscle earlier this season, she’ll only swim in the relays at state.

“We’ve improved so much as a team it’s indescribable,” said junior Victoria Erdmann, who competes in the relays.

DeMaio said host Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos were the favorites. He said the Lady Cats won’t challenge either squad this year.

“Team wise, no, we don’t have the depth or training time to compare to these schools,” DeMaio said. “Can we compete with them in a year or two? Yeah we can. Can we match them head-to-head? To a degree, yeah we can.

“This team is in the first year of a very long building process. We’re setting the standard for the future kids that come into this sport.”