LLHS swimmers buoyed by state meet experience

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One practice in the water.

That’s the amount of pool time the Los Lunas boys and girls relay teams had before their preliminary races on Friday at the State Swimming and Diving Meet at the Albuquerque Academy due to the President’s Day holiday and the aftermath of a recent wildfire on the Isleta Pueblo.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS’ MAKENZIE SMITH, far left, Tati Jiron, center left, Kiley McCleary, center right, and Shannae Williams, far right, prepare for their 200-yard medley relay race at the State Swimming and Diving Meet Friday at the Albuquerque Academy.

“It felt a lot better to get in the pool yesterday,” said sophomore Miranda Candelaria. “Coach asked us if we’d lost anything but we all said we felt good.”

The Tigers came close, but were unable to qualify Friday for Saturday’s finals in any of the three preliminary races, eliminating them from the competition.

The closest LLHS swimmers came was an 18th place finish from the team of Kiley McCleary, Shannae Williams, Faron Gomez and Miranda Candelaria in the Girls 400-yard freestyle relay. The quartet finished with a time of 4:13.71, just short of the cutoff as the top 16 teams advanced to Saturday’s finals

The team of MacKenzie Smith, McCleary, Williams and Jiron scored a time of 2:14.92 in the girls 200-yard medley relay, good for 22nd while the team of McCleary, Williams, Candelaria and Jiron finished with a time of 1:53.28 in the girls 200-yard freestyle relay, also finishing 22nd.

On the boys side, the boys 200-yard medley relay team of Jonathan Gamez, Caleb Garnand, Orion Zuni and Tommy Browning just missed the cut with a time of 1:53.78, good for 19th place.

“It’s been a long time,” said Browning of his team, which was the first boys relay team to qualify for state in nine years. “I felt really accomplished. This was the best swim of my life and we all really performed well as a team.”

Coach Lin Onsea said he was happy overall with the team’s performance and development.

“For us just to get here is great,” Onsea said. “That was our focus and next year they’re going to get better if they keep swimming. So I’m pretty pleased.”

Candelaria agreed.

“We were really working hard in practice and improving on what we do,” she said. “(To go further) it’s just working on the little things.”