Aquatics: Single point still rankles Eagles
The Second Baptist boys swimming and diving team lost the TAPPS Division II state title by a single point to Lutheran South a year ago.
But the Eagles could exact a measure of revenge this season. While Second Baptist graduated standouts like Chris Jolly, they return a strong nucleus.
"We had five seniors on last year's team, but Lutheran South lost more than we did," said Second Baptist head coach Mark Hahn. "Lutheran South has won state seven of the last eight years. We came so close to beating them (in 2010). I really feel like it's our turn."
The Eagles have more depth than at any time in Hahn's seven seasons at the school, including their last state title-winning team during his first year on the job. Second Baptist has 17 boys on the roster, giving them huge point potential.
They also have a wealth of experience.
"Some of my guys have been with me for seven years," Hahn said. "They started swimming for me in middle school and, fortunately, they stuck with it."
Senior Jason Blades leads a powerhouse boys' contingent. Blades excels in the 200-yard individual medley relay and the 100-yard butterfly.
"Jason should be top eight at state in both of his (individual) races," Hahn said. "He has so much experience."
Other seniors familiar with the state meet are Ben Pfeffer in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke and Ryan Pool and Ben Riggle each in the 200 and 500 freestyle. John Durie, another senior, will swim the 50 and 100 freestyle.
Junior John Van Anglen earned a bronze medal at state in the 100 breaststroke and settled for fourth in the 200 individual medley.
"John has a legitimate shot at first place in the 100 breaststroke," Hahn said.
Junior Jerry Leung, a transfer from Hong Kong, has been the biggest surprise. Leung has done his best to replace Jolly in the 50 and 100 freestyle, posting fast times.
"Jerry has done an incredible job," Hahn said. "Graduating Chris was tough, but Jerry has made it easier to take."
Sophomore Colin Whalen also can't be ignored in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle.
All three of Second Baptist's relays have medal potential. The 200 medley features Blades, Leung, Whalen and Van Anglen. The 200 freestyle relay includes Blades, Leung, Pfeffer and Pool. The 400 freestyle relay line-up should have Pfeffer, Pool, Whalen and Van Anglen on board.
While Second Baptist's boys will be among the state favorites, the girls are quickly catching up to their counterparts. Last year's third-place team finish was the high-water mark in the program's history.
The Eagles rely on its senior standouts, Claudia Mills (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly) and Katie Lakenmacher (50 freestyle, 100 backstroke).
Sophomores Margaret Hartman (50 and 100 freestyle) and Katharine Kimmel (100 and 200 freestyle) are ahead of schedule.
"Margaret placed fifth in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 free, and Katharine was top three in the 100 and 200 freestyle," Hahn said. "They surprised everyone."
Sophomore Grace Pfeffer continues to excel in the 50 and 100 freestyle.
Second Baptist returns all four legs from last year's state champion in the 200 freestyle relay — Hartman, Kimmel, Mills and Grace Pfeffer. The 400 freestyle relay came in fourth, but the 200 medley relay was disqualified for a false start.
"Hopefully, we can take all three (girls') relays to state this year," Hahn said. "It's a possibility."
Second Baptist is preparing for the TAPPS South Regional Swimming and Diving Championships on Jan. 29 at the Conroe ISD Natatorium. The Eagles also are eager to compete at the TAPPS Division II Swimming Diving Championships on Feb. 11-12 at the Josh Davis Natatorium in San Antonio.
"We have a lot to look forward to," Hahn said.
Perhaps even a long-awaited state championship.
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