The Clovis High swim teams always had a ring of familiarity about it the last couple of years, and it was because of the longtime presence of a pair of swimmers.
Those athletes, Miles Ware and Amber Espinoza, are graduated now and the water-bound Wildcats and Lady Wildcats are rebuilding because those two happened to be Clovis’ best swimmers.
Still, the goals are high for CHS coach Vince DeMaio.
“I think this year we have a multitude of kids who have a great team outlook and a great team ethic,” DeMaio said of replacing the leaders from last year’s squad. “They lead each other and that’s a great thing to have. From a workout perspective here at the pool, we’re seeing everybody help each other out.”
Ware, however, was the only boys swimmer to qualify for an individual event at the 2008 state meet — although the team was eligible for all three relays in Albuquerque last February. Espinoza, meanwhile, was the girls’ top individual finisher a year ago.
Clovis’ girls did have two others participate in individual competition, and sophomore Jill Southard as well as junior Portia Gibbons return.
“There’s no question that Jill is going to be an excellent swimmer,” DeMaio said. “She is already and she has a great work ethic. I think she has the opportunity to final in any event that she chooses.”
Southard said she strives to maintain discipline in her workouts.
“I guess my goal is really just to keep focus in practice, because sometimes I daydream when I swim,” she said. “There’s more pressure (on me) and a lot less freedom to goof off.”
At the team’s first meet in Pecos, Texas, two weeks ago, Southard reached state qualifying times and broke school records in winning the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle. Others strong swimmers on this year’s girls squad include juniors Martha Chace and Chelsey Carter, and eighth-grader Heather Steinle.
The Clovis coach is also confident in boys swimmers such as sophomore Nick DeMaio, Ryan Waters, eighth-grader Lucas Brock, freshman Connor Rose and senior Brody Hawes, who has been accepted to the Air Force Academy when he graduates from high school.
Speaking of the Air Force, Clovis has extra help in the form of assistant Scott Percival this season. Percival swam collegiately for the Academy and recently moved to Clovis.
“Our goal truly is to have three girls qualify for six to eight individual events, and the same with the boys,” coach DeMaio said. “We want two or three of our boys with individual qualifying times.”
The best shot for the boys is Nick DeMaio, the coach’s son, in a number of freestyle events, the 100 backstroke or the individual medley. Meanwhile, Waters (100 breast), Brock (100 butterfly), Rose (100 butterfly) and Hawes (50 freestyle) will work toward state qualifying marks as the season progresses.
“We want to take a lot of individuals, as well as the relays, to state,” Nick DeMaio said.