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State swimming/diving to have battle of stars on Saturday

February 23, 2019

Albuquerque High’s Jessica Albanna competes in the state diving championships. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright ? 2019 Albuquerque Journal

There were few surprises in Friday’s preliminary rounds of the high school state swim meet at Albuquerque Academy.

The La Cueva boys and girls have put themselves in a strong position to sweep both state championships in the large- school division when competition resumes Saturday.

Among the small schools, it looks like it is going to come down to Cottonwood Classical trying to hold off Santa Fe Prep on the girls side, while the Blue Griffins boys will be trying to fend away the Coyotes.

But when it comes to high-profile events, it doesn’t get any bigger that the boys 50-yard freestyle.

It will match club teammates and Division I college signees Keelan Hunt of Cibola, who is going to Purdue, and Sandia’s Max Howton, who signed with Kentucky.

“In the 50, it’s going to be a good race,” Hunt said. “We’re both so close and we’ve known each other for a long time, so I’m excited about it. It should be fun.”

It’s a rare thing in Albuquerque when two such athletes meet in the same event in the pool.

Although they were in separate heats in Friday’s preliminaries, they will be side by side today as Hunt had the slight advantage at 20.84 seconds and Howton at 20.90.

“I had my best time in the 50 freestyle, which I’m really happy with,” Hunt said. “I sort of have been hitting a wall with that, so I’m glad I’m improving.”

In handicapping the race, he said it should be a real tossup.

“In the 50, I tend to have a lot slower reaction time on the block, which is very important in the 50,” Hunt said. “And it’s usually like that and he’s usually able to out-touch me. But lately it’s been getting closer and closer, which has been fun.”

For La Cueva, the dominating duo of Natalie Jones, an Arkansas signee, and Chrysten Pacheco, a Houston signee, is tough for opponents to overcome. And the pair give their teammates a boost, Bears coach Jared Price said.

“I have more senior girls, and they’ve been impressive all season,” Price said. “They showed up. I think having that status on the girls team helps morale, knowing you have that kind of athleticism on your own team. It motivates the rest of the team. They really are leaders, promoting morale and promoting teamwork, and they work the hardest on the team.”

Jones won her 50 and 100 free preliminary events, but would need to slice a second from her 23.90 to be competing for a record in the 50 and three seconds from her 52.35 in 100 for a record attempt.

Pacheco won the 100 butterfly and the 200 free and likewise has some serious work to do if she wants to earn a record in either event.

La Cueva’s Jack Hoagland, a Notre Dame signee, is looking to lower his own 500 free record of 4:28.19 while also adding a 200 individual medley record to the trophy case.

“Records are made to be broken, but I want to try and keep it as long as I can,” he said. “In metro, .06 off the (IM) record. (Friday) was not my best in the IM. I tried hard, but I have to fix a few things in that and I’ll be ready to race and hopefully I’ll break that one too.”

For Price, perhaps the biggest smile was saved for teammate Greyson Ulibarri, who actually earned the top seed in the 500 with a 4:51.10, 0.40 better than Hoagland and a personal best by 13 seconds.

“That was really impressive,” Price said. “So I’m really excited to see what they’re all going to do.”

The top divers from Friday morning’s preliminaries were Albuquerque High freshman Nadine Coulie, whose 327.40 score bettered teammate Jessica Albanna (317.15). For the boys, Eldorado junior Isaac Newman, whose 395.80 eclipsed Cleveland junior Jake Gatten (326.50). Those two finished 1-2 last year.

Meet schedule

Day 1 results

Day 2 heat sheets

Saturday

State Swimming/Diving, ABQ Academy

First of 24 event finals begins at 11:30 a.m.