Rangers roll to top-5 finish at 6A state meet
AUSTIN — Smithson Valley senior Konnar Klinksiek’s motivation was leaving a legacy. Teammate Joe Hunt was simply seeking redemption after a lost season thanks to injury.
Both accomplished their goals. In doing so, the Rangers came away with something even more prestigious — plenty of hardware and a place among the state’s top programs.
Smithson Valley set two records, won two relays, earned two silvers and a bronze Saturday and finished fifth at the UIL Class 6A state swimming and diving championships at the University of Texas’ Jamail Center.
Southlake Carroll racked up 246½ points to secure a ninth straight state crown. The Woodlands (216) was second, Humble Kingwood (188) was third and Katy Seven Lakes (150) nabbed fourth, three points ahead of Smithson Valley.
“I’m extremely proud of my team,” said Klinksiek, the 2018 Express-News swimmer of the year. “I wanted to leave something they could strive for the next couple of years.”
Smithson Valley set the tone from the start as the foursome of Klinksiek, Hunt, Carter Hill and Amechi Nwaeze won the meet-opening 200-yard medley relay in a 6A and overall state meet record of 1 minute, 30.73 seconds. The Woodlands established the previous mark of 1:31.25 in 1999.
Klinksiek, Hunt and Nwaeze added another gold when they teamed with Shaun Besch to capture the 200 freestyle relay in 1:23.26.
A Virginia signee, Klinksiek was second in the 100 butterfly (48.40) and third in the 50 free (20.24). He had the top preliminary time in both.
“I was definitely happy with pretty much everything,” Klinksiek said. “I know there’s a few things I could’ve done different. Overall, I was happy.”
Hunt was just happy to be at the state meet. A year ago, he was hampered by tendinitis in both shoulders, but overcame the ailments to seize silver in the 100 backstroke in 49.28.
“I don’t think of anything but the goal of winning,” Hunt said. “Although I came in second, I think I did awesome.”
The same could be said of New Braunfels senior Isaac Barrera, who placed second in the 200 individual medley in 1:48.75. Teammate Aaron Bruns was fourth (20.60) in the 50 free as the Unicorns were 13th in the team race. Churchill, paced by Samuel Player’s sixth place in the 200 freestyle, tied for 23rd.
Reagan’s Brandon Garcia was sixth in the 100 breaststroke.
While area boys found plenty of success Saturday, it was tough going for the girls as only two athletes — Steele junior Evelyn Bruner and Reagan sophomore Morgan Bartley — advanced to a championship final.
Bruner seized her opportunity, claiming bronze in the 200 freestyle in 1:49.18. Her time was nearly two seconds faster than her effort in Friday’s prelims.
“I think I’ve improved over the years on just me knowing how to do things,” Bruner said. “I got a little bit less nervous this time around and I just put myself out there, so I did the best I could do and not the best that someone else could do.”
The approach paid off as Bruner held off a late surge from Southlake Carroll freshman Riley Francis to win by only .02 seconds.
“I definitely knew she was there,” Bruner said of Francis. “She’s the sweetest person ever, but I’m happy I out-touched her.”
Bartley, named the outstanding female swimmer two weeks ago at the Region VII-6A competition, was fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:04.32. Her performance allowed Reagan to finish 13th in the team standings, the highest by an area girls team.