High School Swimming

Taylor, Seven Lakes dominate at Region V-6A swim championships

By STEPHEN GREENWELL, Times Correspondent
Posted 2/1/20

CYPRESS — The temporary loss of its head coach to a stomach bug and a relay team to disqualification ultimately didn’t matter to Taylor High’s girls’ swimming squad. The Mustangs overcame both obstacles to become back-to-back Region V-6A champions at Cy-Fair’s Pridgeon Natatorium on Feb. 1.

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High School Swimming

Taylor, Seven Lakes dominate at Region V-6A swim championships

Posted

CYPRESS — The temporary loss of its head coach to a stomach bug and a relay team to disqualification ultimately didn’t matter to Taylor High’s girls’ swimming squad. The Mustangs overcame both obstacles to become back-to-back Region V-6A champions at Cy-Fair’s Pridgeon Natatorium on Feb. 1.

The Mustangs actually trailed deep into the meet, after event 17, because they were unable to field a 200 freestyle relay team. At the previous night’s qualifiers, the team was disqualified for a swimmer leaving the block early. As a result, Taylor trailed Seven Lakes, 267-244, heading into the final three girls’ events.

However, the Mustangs rallied and dominated the 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke before winning the 400 freestyle relay. Taylor had seven swimmers score points in the two individual events, in a strong flexing of the team’s depth, and won the meet 388-295 over Seven Lakes as a result.

Assistant coach Jessica Mixon filled in for head coach Matt Apple, who was unable to attend because of an illness. The coaching staff received the Coach of the Meet award for the Mustangs’ performance.

Mixon has been with the program for eight years.

“It’s great to see these kids mature and develop,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s always cool to see them grow up.”

Mixon added that despite the setback with the relay team, some illnesses spreading among team members in the weeks leading up to regionals, and Apple unable to attend, the Mustangs never lost the proper mindset.

“The kids did a really great job staying positive,” she said. “They put the work in this year to get where we are now.”

Taylor senior Emma Sticklen was named Swimmer of the Meet as she took first place in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. She was also part of the Mustangs’ winning 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams.

Junior Abbie Alvarez also had an impressive meet for Taylor, qualifying for state with a win in the 200 individual medley and a second-place finish in the 100 breaststroke. It will be her third time at state, qualifying in individual events all three times.

“We’re going to get back into the grind,” she said of the team’s practice regimen for the next two weeks. “Hopefully, we can place higher than last year (fourth).”

Individually, Alvarez wanted to improve on her seventh-place finish in the IM, saying it was all a matter of approach.

“In my head, I know what to do. I just need to relax and do it,” she said. “I’m hoping to medal in that.”

Any swimmer that finished first or second in a race automatically qualified for the state meet in Austin in two weeks. At that point, the remaining swimmers are ranked by their regional times, and the next fastest after the automatic qualifiers are used to fill out the field in a race.

Joining Sticklen and Alvarez in individual events at state from Taylor will be Taylor Schababerle, who earned a second-place finish in the 500 freestyle. The 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay teams also qualified, but the Mustangs will be at a severe disadvantage as a team because they won’t be allowed to field a 200 freestyle relay team.

It was a strong meet overall for Katy ISD swimmers, as they earned 21 of the 40 available automatic qualifier spots for the state meet.

Cinco Ranch’s Sophia Bernal was one of those as she took first place in the 50 freestyle. She was also a key component of Cinco Ranch’s second-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay, the only other automatic berth earned by the Cougars.

It will be Bernal’s third time at state.

“I’m trying to break into 23 seconds,” she said of her time, which was 24.02 at regionals. “We’re going to build up the intensity and the endurance the next two weeks, and then go straight down with the time.”

Bernal, a senior, is still evaluating three colleges when it comes to where she’ll swim next. She said she had a mix of emotions after winning regionals.

“It’s bittersweet, because it’s my last regionals and my last state (meet),” she said, adding that she would miss swimming for Cinco Ranch and her high school teammates.

For Seven Lakes, junior Maddie Welborn started the meet with a win in the 200 freestyle, and she also earned second place in the 100 freestyle. The girls’ 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams also both earned state berths, with second-place finishes. The Spartans led for much of the meet as a result, but will need to build their depth as they did not field a swimmer in the 100 backstroke or a team in the 400 freestyle relay.

Tompkins will also be represented at state by senior Trinity Tran. She finished in second place in the 100 backstroke.

On the boys’ side of the meet, Seven Lakes finished in second place, 283-249, to Fort Bend Clements. Seven Lakes coach Jordan Beck was named the boys’ Coach of the Meet.

The Spartans were powered by individual performances from three state qualifiers: seniors Seungjoon Ahn and Tyler Kopp, and junior Justin Liao.

Ahn took second place in the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle. Kopp may have had the biggest improvement of the meet, posting a six-second improvement on his seed time to take first in the 200 IM. Liao won the 100 breaststroke.

Seven Lakes also had an impressive showing in the relays. It won the 200 medley and placed second in the 400 freestyle.

However, Clements led 186-179 after a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay, and held off the Spartans by placing three individuals in the top eight of the 100 backstroke and breaststroke, and winning the 400 freestyle relay. It was tightly packed with Katy ISD at the top of the team leaderboard, as Taylor finished third with 219 and Tompkins was fourth with 214.

Katy High had its lone automatic qualifier. Sophomore Aidan Garriga tied for first in the 100 backstroke with Ridge Point’s Michael Kohl, both swimming the race in 51 seconds.

Taylor’s lone individual qualifier on the boys side was freshman Patrick Spillman in the 100 breaststroke, with a second-place finish. The Mustangs also finished second in the 200 medley relay. Cinco Ranch will also send a relay team to state, as the Cougars finished second in the 200 freestyle relay.

In diving, Tompkins’ Matthew Aigner won gold to book his trip to state. Seven Lakes’ Summer Taylor won gold on the girls side to win consecutive regional championships and earn her fourth straight trip to state.

The Class 6A swimming and diving state championships will be held Feb. 14-15 at the Jamail Texas Swimming Center on the campus of the University of Texas.

At the Region 6-5A meet, Paetow swimmers earned nine school records. The Panther boys finished sixth overall and the Panther girls finished 10th.

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