By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
One finalist last year at state was the first building block. Now, the Clovis High swim team is looking to add on.
The New Mexico state swimming and diving championships are scheduled for this weekend at Albuquerque Academy, with preliminary competition today and the finals on Saturday.
In 2006, the fledgling Clovis program had its first finalist when senior Alyssa Pyeatt took seventh overall in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Wildcats coach Vince de Maio thinks junior Miles Ware and Amber Espinoza have realistic shots this year.
Ware will swim in the 100 freestyle race, where he enters with the 15th-best qualifying mark, and in the 100 backstroke — in which he enters with the 12th-best mark.
Even if Ware only makes the consolation finals, or if the Clovis boys 400 freestyle relay team of Ware, Nick de Maio, Josh Bussen and Landon Dalley can do the same, the Wildcats will better last year’s state performance.
The Clovis boys failed to qualify anyone for the state competition last year in the program’s first year.
“I think it’s definitely a big deal, since it’s only the second year for the program, to already have relays and individuals going up there to the state championships,” Ware said. “It’s a good chance to test our determination and will to succeed. It shows we’ve put a lot of work in and really accomplished something big in a short amount of time.”
As a sophomore in 2006, he finished 15th in the 100 butterfly.
A year later, the Wildcats’ junior comes in right on the bubble of making the finals with eighth-best qualifying time — 1:04.97.
“At least top eight in the fly,” said Espinoza of her goals for the state meet. “I think that’s what I’m more nervous about than anything. And I want the relays to make it to the second day.”
Espinoza, Claire Simpson, Chelsey Carter and Katelyn Jeffs make up Clovis’ 200 freestyle relay entry while Simpson, Jeffs, Espinoza and Portia Gibbons are on the girls 400 yard freestyle relay team for the Wildcats.
“I think what gets missed, especially on the east side (of the state) here, is that to win state is going to take an All-American time,” said coach de Maio, who noted that faster times were required across the board just to qualify for the state meet this year.
“Those kids we’re up against are incredibly fast, so it’s quite an honor to be up there competing with them.”