Small, but experienced, swim teams have lofty goals
Much like the past several seasons, there probably won’t be very many swimmers on either the Los Lunas or Valencia High swim teams this winter.
However, both schools will be represented by a few solid veteran swimmers, who have carved out leadership roles and are hoping to post state-qualifying times.
The LLHS and VHS teams, which practice and travel together but compete as separate units, are set to open the season with the 9:30 a.m. Valencia Invite on Saturday at the Isleta Recreation Center.
“There are about 10 teams coming to our opening meet,” said the coach of both county teams, Lin Onsae. “And we should have enough swimmers to fill every event.”
The most accomplished swimmer on either team is Los Lunas senior Marissa Candelaria. A four-time state qualifier, Candelaria said she wants to improve on her personal bests and qualify for state again.
Her best events are the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle, but she may also be on relay teams, and the leadership of Candelaria and fellow senior Stephanie Olmstead will be critical.
Candelaria reached the finals in the 100 backstroke at state last February, where she placed 15th.
Other Lady Tiger returners include Faron Gomez, who has shown promise in the 200 and 500 freestyle distances, along with Andrea Sena and Josetta DeLaTorre.
Onsae said McKenzie Smith, an eighth-grader, and another veteran club swimmer, Kassidy Young, could be contributors.
The boys side will be without Ryan and Mitchell Lupi, brothers whose family moved to Tennessee this year. Ryan Lupi advanced to the state finals in two events at last year’s state championships, earning the first LLHS boys points at state since 2006.
Jonathan Gamez, Eddie Lopez and Dante Risso are among the returners for the Los Lunas boys. Risso and newcomer Tommy Browning are charter-school students.
Onsae speaks highly of Orion Zuni, another newcomer, and there is Cory Shannon and several LLHS cross-country athletes that hope to find roles on the swim team.
The Valencia girls had the four swimmers needed for a relay throughout much of last season, and that should be the case again. Even though senior Kaitlynn Craig has not returned, home-schooler Morgan Cook and senior Jensen Hatch might have enough teammates for relays again.
Adele Armenta and eighth-grader Isabel Baca are the main additions to the Lady Jaguars. No VHS boys came out for the team last year, and Onsae didn’t have any in this year’s pre-season practices.
The Valencia Invite will feature the large, competitive St. Pius squad, along with the smaller teams from Gallup, Farmington High and Miyamura. The Los Lunas and VHS teams have only scheduled two long trips, and those are to Santa Fe and Farmington — everything else is in the Albuquerque metro area.
The Jaguar and Tiger teams are idle the weekend of Dec. 1, but will be at Albuquerque Public Schools meets on Dec. 8, 15 and 22 and Jan. 12. The District 2-1A/5A meet is Feb. 16 at Albuquerque Academy, where the state championships will be held the following week.
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