Senior’s last swim

Four Tigersharks compete in UIL State swim meet, break school record

Owen Young, Logan Diggs, John David Cass, Eli Likins, Evan Likins and Nathan Morris pose for a picture at the 2021 UIL state swim meet. Swimmers traveled to San Antonio to compete against swimmers from all over Texas.

Story by Caden Rainwater, sports editor

The pandemic is so well known that it doesn’t need to be named and has taken its toll. It’s clear in everything we do, everywhere we look. Unfortunately, that includes the lives of high school seniors, students that waited patiently the past four years to have their time on top of the hill.

Taking a look into the lives of the early-risers, the high school swim team earned a unique ruling from UIL limiting the number of swimmers that would advance as the post-season went on. 

As UIL enforced the National Federation Swimming and Diving Rules Book, only the top six individual and relay teams advanced from the district meet, with no consolation finals at district. From there, only one swimmer in each event advanced from Regionals to the UIL state meet along with the next eight swimmers with the best regional final times overall.

“This year was probably the smallest number of swimmers that have traveled to state in the past four years that I’ve been on the team,” senior Logan Diggs said. “You would think that number-wise that would hurt us considering our lack of swimmers, but we did far better than anyone expected.”

For years, the Tigersharks have been known for having a dominant trait passed down, making consecutive showings at the state meet for over a decade. The competition at the district meet is not what held the team back. It wasn’t until the Regionals meet when they realized the numbers were slimming for advancers.

“The competition didn’t really change before state, but everyone had the mindset that I have to either win or swim my heart out to advance,” Diggs said. “I had to watch so many of my teammates’ seasons end earlier than expected, only four of us actually got to keep working after.”

Walking away from the Regional meet in Frisco, only four swimmers knew they were able to swim another day: seniors John David Cass, Logan Diggs, junior Evan Likins and freshman Eli Likins. Besides Cass, the three swimmers would only go on to compete in two relay events, the 200 Medley Relay and the 400 Free Relay.

Especially during a year like this, I can’t really compare [the State Meet] to anything because there’s nothing like it, but it’s definitely an experience I’ll remember.”

— Logan Diggs, senior

“All in all, us four and the two alternates we got to bring were just really happy to have the chance to be there,” Diggs said. 

Making the drive to San Antonio for the 2021 UIL State swim meet was not only nerve-racking, but yet another new experience outside of the normal.

“The feeling was definitely weird considering we weren’t at the University of Texas at Austin,” Diggs said. “We were instead at an extremely big high school pool where there were so many restrictions. We even had to wear our masks as we walked out to the starting blocks and after a race all while panting.”

Arriving Friday afternoon, the team quickly settled in, shaved their arms and legs, and rested in preparation, for two swimmers knew it would be their last high school swim. Saturday morning, the preliminary round went by without disqualifications for the Tigersharks, sending all four swimmers to finals.

“In prelims, we didn’t feel like we had done our best, we were facing the concept that even though we were at state, we may not swim our very best time,” Diggs said. “Our spirits weren’t the highest, but that was going to change real quick.”

Opening the evening, all four boys set the tone for the night coming within a few tenths of the school record for the 200 Medley Relay, earning fifth in the state for 5A schools. Later on, Cass would go on to swim his individual event, the 100 Fly in the fastest heat, competing for the awards stand. Making his last meet count, he edged out nearly all of Texas with a time of 48.91. He placed third in 5A and overall fourth in the state.

“It was a very surreal experience warming up that day I decided to not let my nerves get the best of me so when I was behind the blocks ready for the 100 fly I was more excited than nervous,” Cass said. 

The feeling of getting third at state filled me with so much pride and a sense of accomplishment because I was the first person from Texas High School to get a medal since 2013.”

— John David Cass, senior

Such a moment by Cass couldn’t go without serious credit thanks to Head Coach Eric Vogan following the event.

“Hugging my coach and having him put my medal on my neck was the best feeling from that race because we both knew how much that meant to everyone,” Cass said. “We all knew how much work we put in so it was a big sense of accomplishment.”

However, there was one more race ahead. By no means were they their strongest going in, but it was the last of the evening. Emotions were high, and the four swimmers knew it was time to go out with a bang. Seating eighth, they were expected to earn the last place in their heat of four and accept eighth in 5A, but Saturday, March 2, was a day where limits became tested.

Three minutes and 12.63 seconds, nearly three seconds faster than the time they went into the race, sixth place. The 400 free relay record, last broken back in 2009 was no longer on top, Diggs, Cass and the Likins brothers officially set the school record earning their spot on the swim record board for years to come.

“I’d say just about everything in my body went into that record, I could barely pull myself out of the pool,” Diggs said. “At first I didn’t even know we broke the record, my teammates were screaming that we had just broken the record, but I wasn’t even that surprised. Eli Likins put so much effort into that swim, I always knew he could bring it home for us.”

After placing ninth out of 67 teams that advanced to the state meet, the seniors officially handed the reins of the team down to the underclassman, hoping their success will work to inspire.

“I feel like them swimming with me, John David, Evan and Eli, they’ll see that what we achieved is not impossible,” Diggs said. “Moreso, they’ve seen what it takes to get to where we got.”