Warrior swimmers gear up for district meet

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The Socorro High School swimming teams — both the boys and girls squads — came in third place this past weekend in Santa Fe, with individual times steadily decreasing over the last two months as they prepare for this weekend’s district meet.

Keeping in mind that the sport of swimming in New Mexico doesn’t split up schools by classification based on enrollment, but are divided by region, the Warriors swim against every team in their region no matter the size. That means that Socorro competes against not only schools its own size, but large schools and traditional pool powerhouses like Academy, Sandia and La Cueva.

Being “the little guy” seems to have given this year’s team a resolve to thrive despite not having the number of swimmers, dollars to spend and high-priced facilities that the aforementioned schools take for granted.

As is the case for most activities, good results happen when the athletes are working together. This is especially evident in the strength of the Warrior relay teams, who consistently finish in the top five in just about every meet.

Over the weekend, the girls’ 200-yard medley relay team of Bryn Botko, Charli Gonzales, Jordan Vinson and Angelina Stanzione finished in first place and just one second shy of qualifying for the state meet. The 200-yard freestyle relay team of Gonzales, Vinson, Stanzione and Kaitlin Warder took second place at the meet.

The boys’ relay teams came in fourth place in both the medley and freestyle relays. Greg Stover, Matthew Lucero, Kash Winningham and Hanson Oxford brought home the medley finish while Lucero, Oxford, Winningham and Tyler Crespin made up the freestyle team.

That’s not to say these swimmers didn’t also have strong individual finishes. On the girls’ team, Gonzales won the breaststroke, Botko placed second in the butterfly and Stanzione and Mirjana Gacanich took third in the 50-yard freestyle and individual medley, respectively. Stanzione added a second place finish in the 100-yard freestyle event to tally more points for the Warriors.

On the boys’ team, individual races also resulted in strong standings. Lucero placed first in the butterfly and Kash Winningham took third in the individual medley. The results and times were a strong improvement over the Warriors’ last meet.

Two weeks ago, at the Griffin Invite, also in Santa Fe, the girls’ 200-yard medley relay team of Botko, Gonzales, Vinson and Stanzione posted a time of 2 minutes and 14.81 seconds to finish in fifth place out of 15 relay teams. The same group of girls finished fifth in the 200-yard freestyle relay race. The girls also broke out for the individual events with Stanzione taking fifth in the 50-yard freestyle, Botko placing fourth in the 100-yard butterfly and Gonzales taking fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke. Teresa Lucero, Chyna Pearson, Leanne Jojola, and Alizabeth Saenz also brought in points for the team with clean finishes.

The boys had even stiffer competition at the Griffin Invite and were just shy of finishing in the top five in any event. The boys team of Crespin, Winningham, Lucero and Oxford did show their backbone by timing out at 2 minutes and 12.47 seconds — good enough for eighth in the 200 medley.

The combination of older, more experienced swimmers with rapidly-improving freshman and sophomores has consistently produced solid times this winter. Like many SHS teams, the Warrior swimmers have a lot of young athletes. But that has been an asset for growing the team, along with two assistant coaches to whom coach Diedra Vinson gives full credit for her sanity and health.

Both Corey Smith and Shawn Ward are New Mexico Tech students helping Coach Vinson pro bono. According to Vinson, their participation has forced more technical improvements for all swimmers. After all, one coach can’t watch all 24 swimmers at once in order to improve speed and technique.

Smith is a sophomore from Washington State, while Ward is a senior. Both assistants are competitive swimmers in their own rights, and enjoy watching the next generation of swimmers grow to love the sport.

The Warriors practice at the covered New Mexico Tech pool during their regular season, but if you happen to drive past the intersection of El Camino and Bullock during the summer months, you’ll notice over 100 kids, many of whom are current or future Warriors, coming and going twice a day, five days a week, all summer long. The Stingrays club team starts training swimmers as soon as they can swim 25 meters without assistance, and their young careers lead them to wearing the SHS swim cap in high school. Those efforts culminate at this weekend’s district meet, where they’ll have an opportunity to qualify for the state meet the following weekend.