The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Dave Wagner
Staff writer 

CHS swimmers eye state


Last updated 5/11/2021 at 4:40pm

Kevin Wilson

Sophomore Thomas Palla will compete in his third state swim meet this Saturday, and will swim the 500 freestyle and be part of three relay teams.

CLOVIS - Clovis High sophomore Shyann Kissinger is hoping her experience will help in Thursday's state girls swimming competition at Albuquerque Academy.

After all, she's one of the few Wildcats or Lady Wildcats who can rely on it.

"I'm excited to see everybody swim," she said. "I'm excited for the younger ones."

That's right - as a sophomore, Kissinger is actually one of the "older ones." The Lady Cats are also sending sophomores Chloe Lee and Chara May, freshman Jakoda Culley and eighth-graders Brynn Longley and Julie Spears to Thursday's competition.

Meantime, the boys state meet is set for Saturday at Academy. Representing CHS are senior William Longhenry, sophomore Thomas Palla and freshmen Porter Kidd and David Reeb.

CHS co-coach Vincent de Maio, who started the program in 2004 and brought in Gordy Westerberg three years ago to share coaching duties, said everything builds towards the state meet.

"We're all about times," de Maio said. "Winning (regular-season) meets is fine, but it's not our focus."

Kissinger is going in the 200 and 500 freestyle races, and will also swim on the Lady Cats' 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams. She enters the weekend as the No. 1 seed in the 500 freestyle, but expects to see some good competition.

"It's going to be a good race between (Academy senior) Allison (Bernier) and me," said Kissinger, who is making her third trip to state. "I think the 200 is going to be another close race with (Bernier, Hope Christian sophomore) Reese Hinnerichs and (Las Cruces senior) Sarah Gorman."

Palla, who earned boys high-point honors at Saturday's District 3 meet in Carlsbad and has also qualified for state three years in a row, leads the boys quartet. He also swims the 500 free, and will be a part of three relays - the 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle.

He credits Westerberg's help in making improvements over last year.

"I felt slow last year, but I've gained so much speed with Gordy," he said. "I hope our 400 free relay can beat out Hobbs. I think our 200 free relay will definitely have to work at it, but we're going for a top-8 (finish)."

Palla said the abbreviated campaign seems short, with only three regular-season meets, buty he added that everyone is glad to at least have had a season.

"I feels like yesterday was our first meet," he said. "The one thing I do miss is the overnight (trips). You bond with people, and it helps the team draw closer."

The relative lack of numbers hurts the Cats and Lady Cats from a team standpoint, de Maio noted.

"We're really young," he said. "We have one senior and no juniors (in the program), and the boys have two seniors and no juniors. But it's great experience for the teams, and I think they'll do great.

"The boys are primarily ninth and 10th-graders, but they've improved radically over the year and I expect that to continue at state."

District meet - Both Clovis squads finished second in Saturday's district meet at Carlsbad. The boys finished with 113 points to trail Hobbs (150), whil.e the girls finished with 114 points to 121 for Las Cruces, which is actually a combination of all the Las Cruces schools.

Kissinger did not make the trip due to another committment, but the Lady Cats came close to Cruces despite not winning any events and scored in all 11 of them.

The Cats scored in nine events, and Palla was a part of their three victories. He won the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke and swam the second leg of the 200 medley relay team that also included Kidd, Reeb and Longhenry.


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