In the 2019-2020 UIL 6A Swimming and Diving State Meet, Kingwood High School's boys finished as champions out of sixty represented schools, and the girls placed second out of forty-eight schools.
On February 5th and 6th, the Mustangs traveled to the Pearland Natatorium to compete at the UIL Region VI-6A swim meets. The Kingwood High School swimming and diving program took the meets by storm in the first week of February and now head back to a familiar stage - the state competition, in San Antonio for the 2020-2021 season.
Head coach Michael Robinson says that last year's success acts as "a reminder to what the reward can be." The Mustangs will, "walk into the venue knowing that [they] have excelled on [that] stage before," but are laser-focused on the future, not just their past accomplishments.
The divers fared well at district, and senior Morgan Wadsworth earned a fifth-place finish in her last region meet. Though no divers qualified for state, the growing program had a record year.
"The region meet went extremely well for us this year," commented Arizona commit and senior swimmer Beck Parnham. Both the boys and girls squads placed first. At the meet, the girl's team advanced with nine qualifying events and the boys with thirteen.
A highlight for Parnham was being part of the relay that broke a twenty-seven-year-old school record. Parnham, Brendan Studdert, Connor Little, and Garret Green swam a 3:01.16 time for their historic 400 free relay, the best time at Kingwood since 1994. Green also broke his own school record in the 100 fly. On the girl's side, Ava Casperson broke the freshman record in the 50 free.
Robinson was most proud at the end of the meet when the girls "showed their true resiliency" and took the 400 free relay following a "heart-wrenching' disqualification in their 200 free relay.
"Their grit illustrated what being a Kingwood athlete is all about and that response is all that a coach could ever ask for," applauded Robinson.
As they prepare for the state meet, the Mustangs are going through a different process than in past seasons. The state meet would normally be held on a day of prelims and a day of finals. This year, however, the girl's and boy's meets will be held on different days, with prelims taking place in the mornings and finals taking place in the evenings.
The schedule was complicated further when the girl's meet was rescheduled due to the winter storm that swept through Texas. The meets were initially a whole week apart, but now the boys will compete on Friday, February 26th, and the girls on Monday, March 1st.
With the week before the state meet being shut down, the team has had to reconfigure their pre-meet training. Robinson says this is something they have prepared for in advance. He says the team "continuously talk[s] about how you can only control your thoughts and how you approach specific situations in the present." They have practice protocol for situations similar to these when the uncontrollables like weather get in the way. "Our mindset is just to give us a time and a place and we will be there to compete," added Robinson.
Parnham looks forward to seeing everyone "swim fast" after the hectic year. The senior believes that Kingwood's training has prepared them for, "a chance to do something great." The Mustangs are "determined to be successful as a team." Parnham
The adversity of the pandemic has brought along many obstacles, but the Mustangs have been able to work through it and become better in the process. Robinson believes that the biggest impact, "has been felt in the relationship-building aspect of the sport." The team has many traditions and outside-of-practice events that had to be canceled this year. It was "a test to [their] team;s culture," but Robinson says they "still continue to thrive." He sees that the athletes "haven't missed a beat on the work they put in and their ability to support each other" as they continue to improve and strive for excellence.
The Mustangs will compete next week at North East Independent School District's Bill Walker Pool and Josh Davis Natatorium, hoping to capitalize on last year's success and make more history.
The state meet is a huge event for them, "something [they] have trained for and looked forward to the entire year," commented Parnham.
Clusters of fans and teammates filled the Conroe ISD Natatorium stands anxiously waiting for the sharp sound of the whistle to begin cheering on their team. It was finally the day that all competing swim teams had been rigorously preparing for throughout the season, Regionals.
The Region IV-6A competition was held last Friday and Saturday at the CISD Natatorium. Eight teams competed in College Park's division while there were 14 schools in attendance. After placing second at Districts a few weeks prior, the CP boy's team placed second and the girl's team placed fifth. The competition not only qualified many swimmers to compete at the state level but also provided an exciting opportunity for the last official meet of the season.
"Regionals was a great chance for CP Swim to go out and give it our all," junior Isabelle Irani said. "We had a great time swimming and had fun racing our fellow teammates and other schools."
In the midst of all the nerves and thrills, many swimmers were able to race their best times of the entire season at Regionals. All of the hours of late practices and diligent attitudes paid off as many were able to accomplish their goals from the beginning of the season. In addition, the Boy's 200 M Medley Relay team consisting of Ryan Sen, Ethan Yu, Brady Monson, and Max Oberg broke the current school record for that event and Ethan Yu was announced as the 100 M Breastroke Regional champion.
"The environment at Regionals is very exciting since everyone is pumped to swim fast and hopefully qualify for state," sophomore Abby Monson said. "My teammates and I were feeling excited but also a little nervous because we wanted to have good swims. Our main goal was to qualify for State, but we also just wanted to have fun and drop our times."
There were multiple individuals and relays that qualified to compete at the State competition on February 20th and 27th. The number of qualifiers decreased this year in response to current coronavirus conditions in the state. Typically there are 24 qualifiers for each race, but this year there were only 16. CP will send four individuals and relay teams to Austin in the coming weeks to compete for a state title. The qualifiers are Ethan Yu (100 M Breastroke), Max Obeg (100 M Freestyle), and the 400 M Free Relay/200 M Medley Relay team of Ryan Sen, Ethan Yu, Brady Monson, and Max Oberg. For many swimmers, the official end of the season allows them to reflect on the challenges they overcame throughout this unprecedented time.
"For me personally, this season was difficult finding a balance between swim and school because of how much more work there is junior year," junior Abram Allen said. "Overall as a team, I think adjusting to COVID restrictions really hurt the start of our season."
The team had to conquer many challenges this year including injuries and COVID restrictions that impacted how they practiced and competed with each other. However, in the end, the team was able to grow from the experience and display their hard work and dedication at the Regionals competition last weekend. Even though it was the end of their season for many, the hopes of next season keep the team eager."Next swim season will be different because of how many of our best swimmers are graduating," Allen said. "However, our team will be gaining a lot of new talented swimmers."