As team members get into the Albuquerque Academy pool today for the start of the state swimming championships, it’s safe to say that the re- prefix can be erased from what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Clovis High swim team.
Only a year removed from having their top boy and top girl graduate, the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats actually have a chance at establishing several firsts for the school at state — and continue to build the program.
Among the current standards that the Cats and Lady Cats will be aiming for:
n Best finish ever at state. Then-senior Miles Ware took fifth in last year’s 100-yard backstroke for the boys.
n Most participants in a finals race. Only Ware a year ago and Alyssa Pyeatt, in the 2006 girls 100-breaststroke, have ever qualified for the finals race between the top eight finishers from prelims.
Sophomore Jill Southard represents the best opportunity for a high finish at this year’s state meet. Southard didn’t make either the finals or consolation finals (9th through 16th fastest prelim times) as a freshman, but she’s rocketed up the standings this season.
In fact, Southard has the fourth-best qualifying time in both the 200-freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle event.
“Jill’s excited,” Clovis coach Vince de Maio said of Southard’s battles with Las Cruces High’s Sam Harding, one of the state’s best in those events. “I think she was excited at district to go head-to-head with Sam Harding. We’re glad to see that and I think Jill does well in those kinds of situations.”
In the boys 200-freestyle, two young Wildcats have qualified. Sophomore Nick de Maio and eighth-grader Lucas Brock, if qualifying times stay true to form, would be outside the finals field of eight — but just barely.
De Maio, who also has qualified for the 100-backstroke, is sitting at ninth overall while Brock, who will also swim at state in the 500-freestyle, has the 10th-best mark this season.
“It’s exciting. I’ve just heard that it’s real crowded, but it should be fun,” Brock said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Another who made the state qualifying time in an individual event is junior Portia Gibbons, who will compete in the girls 100-backstroke.
The Wildcats also qualified teams for all six relay events — three boys and three girls.
“I’m hoping that we can do better. Hopefully, we can make it to the finals in our relays and in the individual events for the qualifiers,” Nick de Maio said.