McHi boys, girls win district swimming titles

McHi swimmer Travis Wilkins swims the first leg of the last event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, setting up a first-place finish and District Championship at the 6A District Swim Meet at the Rowe High School natatorium in McAllen on Jan 25 2020.

McALLEN — McAllen High swimming head coach Juan Gutierrez will have to make more room in the trophy case after both the McAllen High boys and girls swim teams clinched the District 30-6A swim and dive championship on Saturday at McAllen Rowe.

“They were ready for today. We had the countdown since we got back from Christmas break. Every kid knew about it and they all pulled through at the best time,” Gutierrez said.

The win for the girls squad ends a long drought without a district title that has eluded them since 1979 when both boys and girls teams last clinched the title 41 years ago together.

“It was the goal all year we wanted to win it together,” Gutierrez said. “It’s been 41 years and we wanted to get it back.”

Team results for the boys are 1. McAllen High 151; 2. McAllen Rowe 137; 3. McAllen Memorial 104; 4. Mission High 81; 5. La Joya High 37; La Joya Juarez-Lincoln 24.

Team results for the girls are 1. McAllen High 165; 2. McAllen Rowe 148; Mission High 104; McAllen Memorial 62; La Joya High 23; La Joya Juarez-Lincoln 14.

The top six swimmers and top six teams in relays advance to the Conference 6A-Region VIII Regional swimming and diving competition that will be held Friday and Saturday at the Margaret Clark Aquatic Center in Brownsville.

Everything fell into place for the Bulldogs on Saturday after the 200-yard medley team shot off their marks and finished the heat in a swift 1 minute 42.72 seconds with Gwanghoon Park, Jace Lyon, Nilton Dos Santos and Ethan Lizzotte setting the tone for what would turn out to be a successful day in the pool on their way to reclaiming the district title after finishing second last year.

Lyon, who finished first in the boys 100 back stroke late in the afternoon, was on the 2017 and 2018 Bulldogs back-to-back championship teams with fellow senior teammates Diego Rodriguez, Gwanghoon Park, and Vidal Saenz.

Lyon said not winning the district last year was a minor setback for the team’s major comeback effort to win district this year.

“I made my comeback with a lot of time in the pool and a lot of faith,” Lyon said. “It feels pretty good wining the district title. We have a really good coach and he pushed us through and helped us achieve it. We all worked together and achieved it together.”

Gutierrez led the Bulldogs back to a district title in his second year as head coach.

For the girls, victory was even sweeter.

“I’m so excited and I’m so proud of everyone here because we have just been working for this for so long and we haven’t won this in 41 years so this is absolutely crazy,” McAllen High swimmer Katie Blackwell said. “I have seen so many people work so hard and left high school without winning one of these titles and now that we have finally had the opportunity to win — we did and I’m just so ecstatic.”

Blackwell finished second in the 100 fly and third in the 100 back.

“Swimming has been a part of my life for so long and to finally accomplish something like this means the world to me,” Blackwell said.

To seal the deal, the Bulldogs made one last splash after each swimmer jumped back into the water following their coach’s championship plunge to celebrate with his swimmers with a team huddle and victory chant.

“It’s a tradition for every coach to jump in the pool with the kids,” Gutierrez said. “It’s what every coach wants to do at the end of the year. When you win any kind of title you jump in with your team and I was looking forward to it all year.”

rgarcia@themonitor.com