Swimmers still working toward success

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The 15th Albuquerque Academy Invitational swim meet on Jan. 19 was a big deal.

The 486 swimmers from New Mexico and Texas who participated accounted for the largest high school swimming meet this state has ever hosted, and the Socorro swim team made their presence felt, even among some of the best swimmers within a few hundred miles.

The girls placed 15th out of 20 teams and the boys finished 14th out of 20 teams to make a little noise for small school swimming.

"We did great," Socorro head coach Diedra Vinson said. "We did awesome. I was proud of these kids. Most of these kids that had felt like they hit a wall, or plateaued, peaked or broke through for personal bests."

Going against teams such as Academy and St. Pius, that are traditionally on the verge of repeated state championships, the Warriors are proving that the progression of the program is steadily heading upward. They might not be quite on par with Los Alamos, Las Cruces or the host Chargers, but Socorro isn't wasting anybody's time when they hit the water.

In regard to state qualifying times, Charli Gonzales has already made the mark in the 100-yard breaststroke, and the girls 200-yard medley relay isn't too far off. The Lady Warriors swam a time of 2 minutes and 14.98 seconds in Albuquerque this past weekend, and the qualifying time is 2:09.39.

In swimming terms those five seconds might seem like a lifetime, but the ladies made state in 2012 so there's no reason to assume they won't make up that time within the next four weeks.

"Of course we're always trying to get back to state," Vinson said. "If they can score at one of these events, that's really good."

The term "these events" refers to those meets in which Socorro is going up against the best of the best in New Mexico. The aforementioned medley relay finished 13th Saturday, and in addition had some strong individual finishes.

Gonzales and Aurelia Chavez placed 24th and 25th, respectively, in the girls 50-yard freestyle, about four seconds off qualifying pace, and Gonzales also finished sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:15.81.

On the boys side, Matt Lucero placed 27th with a time of 25.76, just more than two seconds off state qualifying pace, while Kash Winningham finished in the 31st spot with a time of 26.43.

Both Lucero and Winningham are within seven seconds of making state in the 100-yard freestyle. In reality, that's a solid chink of time to make up in four weeks, but keep in mind how young this team is.

Vinson and her team will continue to pressure themselves during practice, and let the cards fall where they may. Either way they'll be working hard.

"My hope is that they translate what they do here to a meet. What you do in practice is how you're going to swim at a meet," Vinson said. "If you don't put it in here, it's not going to happen. When you think you've peaked and it's not happening and it finally does, I can see it. When you hear 'I never thought I could,' it makes them work even harder."

Socorro will travel to Farmington this weekend, then head back to Santa Fe on Feb. 2. The New Mexico high school championships are scheduled for Feb. 22-23 at Albuquerque Academy.