The extra mile

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Coach Lin Onsea talks about his Los Lunas and Valencia swim teams, saying “going the extra mile, it means something a bit different that the usual definition.

“We’ve been adding distance as they’ve been practicing,” Onsea said Saturday after the teams’ third meet of the year in Albuquerque. “They started maybe a mile, now they’re up to two miles. Building up that endurance is key.”

News-Bulletin file photo: LOS LUNAS’ TOMMY BROWNING is one of the Tigers’ top returners for the 2013-14 swim season.

Building up numbers is also a key for the two teams, which he’s pretty pleased with. They have a total of 23 swimmers this season.

“I’m pretty pleased with the numbers we have now, especially with Valencia,” Onsae said. “The majority of our swimmers are from Los Lunas. We don’t get as many swimmers from Valencia.

“But if you watch at each meet we go to, Valencia is cheering for Los Lunas, and Los Lunas is cheering for Valencia. It’s just like one big team,” he said. “We’re basically one team ’til it comes time for scoring.”

As they’ve done since Valencia was opened in 2008, the two teams operate as one, training together during the week. But once the starter’s gun goes off, they’re opponents in the pool on the weekend.

“The good thing is they actually go to meets and race against each other, and in practice they race against each other so they can improve and push each other,” Onsae said. “But the kids are more like ‘good job’ (after a race). We have a lot of unity rather than a rivalry.”

With 15 total returning letter-winners and a total of 23 swimmers overall — 14 wearing Tiger stripes and nine sporting Jaguar spots, Onsae said the team is working its way to better participation, particularly at Valencia.

Los Lunas sent two relay teams and one individual, Marissa Candelaria, to the state swim meet last season. Candelaria has since graduated.

But her relay team teammates, sister Marisa, a sophomore, junior captain Feron Gomez and sophomore Shannae Williams, all return with hopes to return to the state meet on the girls side.

Eighth-graders Kiley McCleary and Tatianna Jiron and freshman MaKenzie Smith have also shown sparks in the early season.

On the boys side for Los Lunas, junior captain Jonathan Gamez and freshman Tommy Bronwing are among the favorites to possibly make the state meet. Freshman Caleb Garnand has also done well in the early season as has senior Eddie Lopez.

“Jonathan is the closest to qualifying so far in the 100-yard freestyle, so is Tommy Bronwing,” said Onsea. “For the girls, it’s our relays that are likely to qualify (for state).”

For Valencia, senior captain Adelene Armenta has shown some strength in the early season, as have up-and-coming eighth-grader Chiara Pesina and sophomore Peyton Lithicum.

Sophomore Gerardo Gutierrez is joined by eighth-grader John Pacheco for the Jaguars boys, with both showing development going into the season.

“They all contribute, but some are a little more ahead,” said Onsea. “With all that said, I’m pretty pleased with what we have. Our challenge is to get everybody up to this point and qualify some relays.”

Onsae said that early season wins have been good, but “making state is the real goal,” with qualifying being the short-term goal.

“We’re real close,” he said of that goal. “Last season, it took us until the last two meets to qualify. We’re on our way. I’m pretty confident we’ll get there.”

The District meet for both LLHS and VHS takes place on Saturday, Feb. 15 at Albuquerque Academy. The State meet is the next weekend, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22, also at Albuquerque Academy.