Swimmers faced tough opponents in opener


There weren’t any state qualifiers for the Los Lunas or Valencia High swim teams at Saturday’s Jaguar-Tiger Invitational.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia’s Jensen Hatch competes in the 100 freestyle in Saturday’s Jaguar-Tiger Invitational at the Isleta Recreation Center. The senior placed fourth in two events in the season-opening meet, and the Valencia and Los Lunas teams will be idle until Dec. 8.

There was, however, plenty of huffing and puffing at the Isleta Recreation Center, as many first-time competitors took the pool and labored to the finish.

Typical of a season-opening meet, there were a few year-round swimmers who picked up at an even faster pace than last year, but there were also some beginners who are simply trying to improve at each meet.

The Los Lunas and Valencia teams are idle until competing in the Valley Invite in Albuquerque on Saturday, Dec. 8.

“For this being our first meet, I was pleased with how we did,” said the coach of both county teams, Lin Onsae. “We had a lot of kids place in the top five or six.”

St. Pius took first in both girls and boys team points. The Sartan boys, easily the biggest, most experienced boys team at the meet, had 173 points, compared to 71 by runner-up Los Lunas.

No Valencia High boys competed Saturday.

The St. Pius girls had 91 points, with Hope Christian placing second at 79 and Los Lunas third at 75. Valencia placed eighth with 25 points, although the Lady Jaguars likely would have scored much higher if they would have eighth-grader Isabel Baca eligible to bring in the fourth girl needed for relay teams.

Onsae said he was told at the last minute that Baca couldn’t compete because some necessary paperwork hadn’t been completed. “Every year, it seems, we have at least one swimmer who can’t compete at their first meet (due to uncompleted paperwork),” he said. “It seems there’s more and more paperwork each year, and it’s disappointing. It seems we could have been told about this sooner. But I would rather this happen now, at the start of the year, than later.”

The main obstacle to running the meet, Onsae said, was finding enough volunteers to do manual stopwatch timing. He said some parents signed up to volunteer, but didn’t perform the timing, even though they showed up to the meet.

There were some of the issues one might expect with the young squads Onsae has this year. One Los Lunas High boy got mixed up on the number of heats in the butterfly, and missed his race.

However, several swimmers made their high school debuts and got baseline times to improve upon. Many of the Tiger and Jaguar swimmers are also a part of the 60-member TWST competitive club, which is in its second year.

The most accomplished swimmer on either team, Los Lunas senior Marissa Candelaria, didn’t qualify for state in her best event, the 100 backstroke. She placed second with a time of 1 minute, 16.22 seconds, which is a few seconds away from qualifying.

Onsae said the four-time state qualifier, Candelaria, only did one meet this fall before the high school season began.

Candelaria teamed with fellow senior Stephanie Olmstead and teammates Faron Gomez, a sophomore, and MaKenzie Smith, an eighth-grader, in the medley relay, where they placed third

Candelaria, Smith, Gomez and Kassidy Young combined to place second in the 400 freestyle relay.

Gomez was fourth in both the 200 and 400 freestyles. Smith was fourth in the backstroke.

The Tiger boys were led mainly by Jonathan Gamez. He helped the medley relay team of Corey Shannon, Orion Zuni and Dante Risso place third.

Gamez also placed second in the butterfly and third in the backstroke.

Gamez, Shannon and Zuni were joined by Tommy Browning on the 400 freestyle relay team, which placed second. Shannon was third in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the backstroke.

Valencia’s girls were led by senior Jensen Hatch. She placed fourth in both the 100 freestyle and the 200 individual medley. VHS junior Adelene Armenta placed second in the 100 butterfly.

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