Stingrays take eighth at Sundance finals
When Matthew Chavez first tried to become a Socorro Stingray, he was still wearing floaties.
Saturday, he became a Sundance Aquatic Association champion in the 25-meter butterfly.
“I remember telling his mom, ‘We have to take the floaties off,” Stingrays coach Diedra Vinson recalls. “I’d love to see his first freestyle time. I think it was, like, two minutes.”
Chavez, now an 8-year-old, was the only Stingray to win a Sundance event title Saturday at the league’s championship meet, held at the West Mesa Aquatic Center.
Along with 48 other individual Stingray qualifiers, plus relay team members, Chavez’s winning time of 20.93 seconds in the event, helping the Stingrays place eighth as a team with 863 points.
“It is truly remarkable what Matthew and all the other swimmers do,” said Vinson, who’s wrapping up her sixth summer as the Stingrays’ coach. “And our coaches are really a cohesive group. They’re amazing.”
Highpoint Sports & Wellness won the Sundance championship with a whopping 2,970 points.
The Stingrays took 105 swimmers to last Thursday’s District C meet, where 49 Socorro swimmers qualified for the season-ending Sundance finals. Relay teams go directly to Sundance and don’t have to qualify.
Chavez, who was the No. 6 seed in the 8-and-under butterfly, got his win late in the last event of the meet. Avery Ngo, in the boys 15-18 butterfly, placed third.
Along with teammates Aiden McComas, Hezekiah Oxford and Skyler Bunning, Chavez helped the 8-and-under 100 freestyle relay team place third.
Other Stingray boys to place in the top three were Bunning, second in the 50 freestyle, and John Woods, who placed in the top three in both freestyle distances in the age 15-18 group.
There were many standouts on the girls side as well. Leading the way were Charli Gonzales, who was second in the age 13-14 breaststroke, and Olivia Beames, who was third in the 9-10 breaststroke.
Vinson became emotional when talking about the heart the Stingrays show in competing against teams with more competitive experience. All seven of the teams that placed ahead of the Stingrays in the team standings are from Albuquerque, and many have year-round club memberships Socorro swimmers don’t have.
“We are truly a recreational program,” said Vinson. “In a small town. To compete with those big teams takes the twice-a-day practices and other dedication.”
Vinson said there has been discussion of bringing USA Swimming into Socorro, something that would give athletes even more competitive experience.
The coach, widely respected by her peers, thanks parents and the swimmers for helping the Stingrays evolve into one of the state’s most competitive public swim programs outside Albuquerque.
“It means a lot to see the kids give as much as they do,” said Vinson. “I call this my swim family.”
Contact Jason W. Brooks