Make a splash

Swim team competes at state after year-long preparation

Senior Kaitlyn Rogers hugs her relay teammates as she finishes her last race as a Texas High Tigershark. The state meet was held February 15-16 in Austin, TX.

Story by Caden Rainwater, sports writer

A question directed to the swim team, that would send serotonin to the brain and quickly trigger laughter for most, is the question, ‘What do y’all do during your off-season?’ Well this is ironic, simply because they don’t actually have an off-season.

The Texas High School swim team, known as the Tigerharks, is known around campus by students as one of the most devoted and diligent teams.. Their commitment to the sport is seen in early morning practices and short  break periods between seasons of practice. As the spring season comes to a close, the Tigerharks concluded the 2019-2020 year as any high school team would hope, at the UIL Swimming and Diving State Meet.

“Going to state really gave me a feel for how a meet is on that scale,” junior Nathan Morriss said. “State is so much more competitive than regionals or any other meets I’ve [been in], so it was a really good feeling to be a part of it.”

The Tigersharks began practicing for the 2020 UIL State Championship a mere three weeks after the 2019 meet, giving the current seniors nearly a year to prepare for their final high school meet . 

“Being ‘in-season’ is simply natural at this point. It’s like school without a summer. It never ends, and I don’t have anything against it,” junior John David Cass said. “We are constantly working hard to be the greatest swimmers we can be, and the ability to put all of that hard work on the line in the most competitive meet in the state of Texas for high schoolers is an amazing feeling.”

All of the dedication to the sport came into perspective in the weeks leading up to the state meet as head coach Eric Vogan began to implement tapering during practices.

“Tapering was especially hard this year and required our mental toughness to fully prepare for the meet,” Morriss said. “Although I went as an alternate, it was exhilarating to watch my friends, that I’ve practiced side-by-side with, perform.”

The morning of Thursday, Feb. 13 arose as a normal day for a Tigershark, as the state competitors coordinated themselves with an early swim. Leaving the pool and arriving at the multipurpose facility, the state bound swimmers were greeted with breakfast, a speech by athletic director Gerry Stanford and a video put together by Tigervision.

“The send-off is always a really fun part to going to state, it feels really good when Coach Stanford prepares something for you, and having all of our parents at the send-off really meant a lot.” Cass said. “It was also a really good feeling to have leadership and STUCO prepare goodie bags for us before we headed to Austin.”

Arriving in Austin the swimmers spent their night in their hotel rooms hanging out and shaving their bodies to reduce drag. This opportunity to spend quality time with their team was notably special for the seniors.

“State is something I always looked forward to because I love the hotel experience and getting to have fun in Austin,” senior Haley Wood said. “The hotel traditions are the most special to me. Sometimes we’ll have pizza delivered to the hotel, eat it out in the hallway, and then the girls will put on matching nightgowns and watch a movie, and it’s super fun.”

Competing for the last time, seniors Kaitlyn Rogers, Avery Morrill and Haley Wood were each part of the 200 medley relay. Rogers and Wood went on to swim in their own individual events, however neither advanced to the second day.

As the lady Tigersharks closed their season out on the first day of the state meet, the boys were able to compete for one last time during finals and took home their only win of the trip in the consolation heat of the 400 meter freestyle relay.

“Going into the meet, I knew that we were all going against the greatest high school swimmers in the state, so my perspective was to simply give it my best effort in the 100 breaststroke and the 50 freestyle,” Cass said. “For the 400 freestyle relay, I knew that it was my last race with Owen [Likins] and Max [Young], so I was ready to give it everything I had. It paid off since we won the heat and took ninth in the state.”

With senior Max Young’s final stroke of the 400 meter freestyle relay, the season was over, swim caps were returned, seniors turned in their swim parkas, and the short break was on the clock for the returning juniors with their eyes already on the 2021 UIL State podium.

“As a senior, state is extremely special because it’s simply our very last swim with the team, so it’s really sentimental,” Wood said. “Even though the state was extremely competitive and we didn’t exactly expect to place in the top three, we all wanted to do our best and go out with a bang.”