Lupi, Candelaria reach second day of state championships

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Compared to how their school had been represented in the past few years, Marissa Candelaria and Ryan Lupi had a lot of impact last weekend.

Marla Brose-The Albuquerque Journal: Marissa Candelaria of Los Lunas High competes in the 100 backstroke in Saturday’s state swimming championships at Albuquerque Academy. Candelaria and teammate Ryan Lupi reached the finals, marking the first time since 2006 that LLHS had at least one boy and one girl score points at state.

The two Los Lunas High swimmers were the only two LLHS qualifiers for the state championships, held at Albuquerque Academy, but they made more of their opportunity than any other Tigers have lately. They each swam fast enough in Friday’s prelims to make it to the top 16 and reach Saturday’s finals.

Candelaria earned points for Los Lunas for the second straight year, as she single-handedly tied the LLHS girls team with Socorro for 26th place.

Lupi was the first Tiger boy to score at state since Chris Peters earned one point in the 50 freestyle in 2006, and he outpaced Manzano, St. Michael’s, Artesia and Bosque Prep all by himself.

Candelaria reached the finals in the 100 backstroke, and ended up 15th with a time of 1 minute, 5.14 seconds. Lupi was ninth in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:04.61, while his time of 2:11.83 in the 200 individual medley placed him 13th.

For Candelaria, a junior, making the finals was the culmination of years of hard work.

Having qualified for state in the backstroke as an eighth-grader and a freshman, she missed the finals as a sophomore, beaten out by teammate Yvette Olmstead by 0.01 seconds for a spot in the finals.

Lupi said the support of his peers at state was extremely helpful.

“(Teammate) Jonathan Gamez (2011 LLHS graduate) Chris Gamez and (Valencia High junior) Jensen Hatch all came to watch me swim,” said Lupi. “It was fantastic having them there to support me.”

Lupi said his experience with the Los Lunas-based Stingrays, a Sundance Aquatic Association team, and with club teams, have been critical to his development. He’s a homeschooler who is a sophomore in terms of eligibility, and hopes to swim for a college team.

“From the time I was 8, I swam on the local Sundance team,” said Lupi. “Sundance was a great way for me to first get started in the sport of swimming. And club swimming has made all the difference in the world.”

Lupi said the summer of 2010 was when he really began to take swimming more seriously. The late Michael Checkley coached the Stingrays that summer, and even though Checkley died in a stabbing incident a couple of months later, he made an impact on Lupi’s career in a short time.

“He was the first coach to believe in me as an athlete, and I still feel indebted to him to this day,” said Lupi. “He recommended me to a club coach in Albuquerque, and I’ve been swimming year-round on club teams since then.”


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.