Griffins flex swim muscle at SWL meet
The District 51 swim team had plenty to focus on Friday.
During the first day of the Southwestern League Swim Championships at the El Pomar Natatorium, the Griffins had some swimmers trying to work their way into today’s finals, some swimmers trying to achieve state qualifying times, and others who were willing to help the team any way they could.
“We want to have a good team performance,” District 51 swim coach Dale Leonhart said. “But individually there are guys with state cuts who want to sharpen a few things, and guys who don’t have their state cuts and this is their big chance to make it.”
Entering the day, the Griffins already had four individuals in seven different events, plus all three of their relays qualified for state. Friday, Nick Neste added his name to the state roster, hitting the 50-yard freestyle qualifying time exactly at 23.20 seconds.
“That’s the first time he’s ever made a state cut,” Leonhart said. “He swam well.”
All of Friday’s races were preliminary races for today’s finals.
The Griffins have won the SWL title the past two seasons, and have been focused on making it three in a row since the season started.
“It’s been a goal all year long,” Griffins swimmer Tyler Walton said. “The very first day of practice, Coach had ‘Triple Play in May’ written up on the board, and this meet is what we’ve been training for all year long.”
The meet is an opportunity for the Griffins to flex a little muscle, finishing first in nine of the 11 prelim races. It’s also the last chance for the District 51 team to race together as a team, and Walton said the group wants to take advantage of that by winning the meet.
“This one is about racing hard and enjoy the time together,” Walton said. “Not everyone is going to be at state, so we want to enjoy the moment and cap off a good season.”
Taylor Fisher is a senior for the Griffins and has seen the team double in size during his four years. The Griffins’ depth could be felt in their cheering section, with the swimmers spending much of the meet at the end of lanes rooting on their teammates.
“(Thursday) night at practice we made a commitment to be around every lane that one of our teammates are racing in,” Fisher said. “So far it’s worked pretty well.”
Fisher is another Griffins’ swimmer chasing down a state qualifying time. Although Fisher is a member of all three of the team’s relays, he’s less than one second away from qualifying in the 100 breaststroke. Friday, Fisher finished in 1:06.65, nearly meeting the needed time of 1:06.00. Fisher has an opportunity to qualify today in the finals.
“I’ve been slowly shaving seconds the whole year,” Fisher said. “I think I got it, I got a good feeling.”
Other strong swims from Friday included the Griffins’ 400 freestyle relay team shaving five seconds off their time, finishing in 3:30.76. Leonhart said that’s still a few seconds away from what the team of Nick Neste, Cyrus Pearo, Tyler Fair and Walton will need to finish at next weekend’s state meet.
“We’ve got to get a lot faster next week,” Leonhart said. “We have to swim a (3:22.00) or better next week.”
Today’s finals begin at 2 p.m.