Cox takes gold at state swim meet

Cox takes gold at state swim meet

Story by Daniel Pellegrin, Staff Writer

AUSTIN–Zero hour, the last shot, the big kahuna, the home stretch, the final countdown, glory’s last shot…the UIL State Swim finals were starring the team in the face. The spectators filled the arena to near capacity, and the contestants marched forward to their perspective bleachers to await one of the most memorable moments of their high school lives.

The finals would act as the largest event of the year, but for some it would be the last meet of their high school careers; seniors Chelsea Albright, Elizabeth Cook, Matt Cox, Lauren Caswell, Colin Hall, Kristian Lewis, Erubiel Basurto-Ruiz, and Travis Whitfield, would all take their places and jump from the completion blocks for the last time.

“During the entire state meet I was just focusing on my relay and making sure I knew what I was supposed to do. It didn’t hit me until the day of finals that it was my last swim meet, and I would never be swimming with this great team ever again,” Basurto-Ruiz said. “It really saddened me when I realized, but I couldn’t let it throw me off my game.”

The crowd anxiously awaited seeing the Girls’ 200 Yard Medley Relay event, which had broken a 14- year-old record the day before. The girls had given their best possible fight for glory and took their final position among the top five in the state. The 200 Medley Relay came to make an impact; and for this year they will be known as 5th in the state and fastest in Texas High history.

The day just began, and the crowed turned its attention to Cox; swimming the 200 Freestyle. Cox rose to the challenge and dominated anyone in his way coming in third overall in Texas. With his first event behind him Cox seemed to be well on his way to make his final meet memorable.

Albright was next up swimming the 200 Individual Medley; she would have to swim a 2:14.57 in order to watch her name positioned next to yet another record. She swam her with expectation of eclipsing the record set by the other swimmer in 1998, who was nearly a foot taller and built much larger. Despite the drastic differences in stature, Albright was able to come within a second of taking the record for herself, but added a little time to yesterday’s effort.

“I added time, but I’m okay. I’m actually really happy,” Albright said. “I’m glad to say that was my last swim. While it felt good and strong, the girl who holds the record broke it in 1998 and she was 6 feet tall and built much bigger than me; so I’m happy to know I got really close to her. I did better than I thought I could ever do coming off my arm surgery.”

While the swimmers warmed up and got mentally ready with each other, Ann Marie Hilborn was isolated in a separate diver’s pool in order to prepare for her events. Hilborn gracefully faced the competition with only the type of quiet enthusiasm that can expected from her. She demonstrated her worthiness of 10th in all of Texas, with a look of ease added in each dive.

“I think I did really well this meet. I came into the meet seeded 11th and by the end of day one I had dropped a place to 12. On finals, I came back and managed to come in tenth. It was really cool seeing my name up on the board for the first time,” Hilborn said. “The diving was kinda lonely though since I was the only one who made it. I’m used to practicing every morning with five guys, so it definitely psyched me out. They weren’t there to support me and make me laugh, but coach Vogan did a good enough job. Overall, it was a great way to end the season.”

Then as the spectators heard the event announced, every eye moved to the starting blocks. The event with the most riding on it for the fans of THS was the 100 Butterfly. Cox stood with the fans’ hopes of gold on his back. A responsibility which he masterfully handled as he showed the crowd that state champions don’t just come from powerhouse schools in suburban areas of Houston or Dallas, they can just as easily be from Texarkana. Cox is coming back to school with the state title and the gold medal to show for it.

“The 100 fly has always been considered a ‘fun’ race for me this year. I never realized that I’d be able to bring home a state title in that event,” Cox said. ”When I saw that I was seeded first coming to state, I was quite shocked because I never thought it’d be like that. Coming into finals seeded first really got me nervous, but I didn’t let I get to me and I ended up winning. It’s the first individual state title for Texas High, and I’m glad that I was the one to bring home the gold for Texas High. All of my hard work over these four years has really paid off and I couldn’t be happier.”

While the crowd was coming down from the excitement of Matt’s victory, his mother didn’t even have the chance to stop crying, before one of the most dramatic episodes of an underdog coming back under enormous odds unfolded. Senior Elizabeth Cook began her 100 Yard freestyle event predicted by the other hopefuls to receive 14th overall.

But Cook had a different prediction in mind as she blew past her competition staying in 9th place until the last seconds, when she took 10th.  In what can be described as a textbook example of the underdog coming back, Elizabeth Cook finished with a 10th place victory, and the new affection of the State meet crowd.

“I love racing when we’re slightly behind the other girls I know we can beat. It’s when the competitive side in me comes out most,” Cook said. “The feeling as you’re about to jump off the block is awesome. Just knowing that you’re coming for ‘em and can beat them really pumps me up.”

The Boys 200 Yard Freestyle Relay was also looking to cut time off of yesterday’s stunning performance. Cox, Zac Baker, Collin Hall, and Nick Sehy, were all ready and able to shave time from their final score. Their relentless efforts and team work gave them the title of 12th in the State of Texas.

Cook was once again the focus of attention from the crowd which she had impressed to the point of collective admiration from all fans, regardless of school affiliation. She was ready to grab hold of a top ten finish in the 100 Yard Backstroke and hold on to it for dear life. In a once more inspiring effort Cook took the title of 8th place in all of Texas with the same amount of heart that had been displayed in the 100 yard Freestyle.

The record breaking efforts of sophomore Pellegrin and Hall would get even the most timid individual on their feet in excitement. Pellegrin and Hall both swam to take home the record of 100 Breaststroke. While they missed it, by what would seem like an insignificant amount of time to most, those crucial few moments seemed to elude the two. But by their spectacular feats of swimming talent Pellegrin and Hall both took 12th place in Texas and still managed to keep their efforts in state worthy of remembrance.

The day closed out with the Boys’ team and the Girls’ team both competing in the 400 yard Freestyle Relay. The girls raced first, and the team of junior Amy McCoy,  Albright, sophomore Ashton Stafford, and Cook, though an excellent demonstration of team effort cut nearly two seconds from their time the previous day. The boys then, with a team of Matt Cox, junior Nick Sehy, senior Travis Whitfield, and Basurto-Ruiz, also cut more than a second off of their previous time from the day before. The Girls took home the title of 7th in Texas, and the Boys brought home 10th in Texas.

Watching the two days of competition and the intense response of the crowd, it’s impossible not to get chills thinking of the team’s efforts in their last meet of the year. The colorful mix of emotions  involved with the last two days give today’s end a bittersweet feeling, the team’s impressive effort and the idea that our seniors are now through, makes for an unbelievable close to the season.

“The seniors are now done, and are on their way out of the program, some have been with swim for seven or more years. We’re a pretty tight team, and it’s a really sad time,” Coach Carl Auel said.” But, it’s also a really exciting, the seniors move forward with their lives, and start something new. It makes for a really emotional time for everyone, and we have go though it every year.”