SWIMMING & DIVING: The Woodlands boys, girls dominate regional meet
SHENANDOAH - A year ago, The Woodlands finished second at the regional swimming and diving behind Austin Westlake in both boys and girls.
The Chaparrals weren’t around to get in its way this year and The Woodlands captured both team titles and a couple individual awards to go along with all the tickets to state that were punched at the UIL Region IV-6A Championships at Conroe ISD Natatorium Saturday.
“The kids that I have coached here, over the past 18 years, never cease to amaze me,” The Woodlands coach Kent Kirchner said. “We started off fast and just like our T-shirts say, ‘finish faster’ and we did that. Two weeks from now we have to do the same thing at the state meet.”
In addition to having 10 athletes qualify for the state meet in 24 total events, The Woodlands also picked up a pair of individual awards.
Kirchner was named the Region IV Coach of The Year while Lucie Nordmann was named female Swimmer of The Meet after winning individual titles in the 50-yard freestyle, 100 yard backstroke, and helping the Lady Highlanders relay teams win titles in the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle relay, and the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Oak Ridge senior Anton Hoherz was named male Diver of The Meet while Montgomery senior Harper Walding was female Diver of The Meet. Conroe ISD dive coach, Bob Lieber was named the Region IV boys and girls diving coach of the year.
The Lady Highlanders finished with a team score of 486. Oak Ridge finished second with 255 points, Montgomery and College Park tied for fourth with 186 points. Conroe finished 13th with 32 points.
In the boys meet, the Highlanders totaled 442.5 points. Klein Oak was the next closest team with 267 points. College Park finished sixth with 129, Oak Ridge finished ninth with 107, Montgomery was 10th with 95 and Conroe was 12th with 76.
The Woodlands set the tone from the very start, winning both the girls and boys 200-yard medley relays.
The Lady Highlanders’ relay team of Lucie Nordmann, Karsten Fields, Emily Reese, and Valerie Staffeldt, finished with a time of 1:42.56 seconds. Oak Ridge finished in second place with a time of 1:47.10, advancing to the state meet.
The Highlanders’ relay team, made up of Alberto Gomez, Joshua Sorensen, Nolan Persyn, and Alexander Merill, finished with a time of 1:33.31 seconds, led by a particularly strong effort by Persyn during the third leg of the relay to advance to state.
The Woodlands then went on to win the next five events in a row.
″[The fast start] was very important,” Kirchner said. “You have to establish momentum and once you do it’s like a snowball rolling downhill.”
The Lady Highlanders dominated the 200-yard freestyle, taking first, second, and third place.
Freshman Lillian Nordmann captured the title in the event with a time of 1:49.49 seconds, while her teammate, Payton Neff, finished second with a time of 1:52.23 seconds to advance to the state meet.
Sydney Roycraft, also a freshman for The Woodlands, came in third with a time of 1:55.12 seconds.
On the boys’ side, Tobin Hickman-Chow won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:39.74 seconds.
Reese also won the girls 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:02.12 seconds, while Montgomery’s Kaitlynn Sims finished in second place with a time of 2:03.42 seconds advancing to the state meet.
Gomez also picked up an individual title in the 200-yard IM, with a time of 1:57.70 seconds to move on to state.
Lucie Nordmann also won the girls 50-yard freestyle with a time of 22.8 seconds, while Staffeldt, a freshman, finished third with a time of 23.79 seconds.
After a fourth place finish in the boys 50-yard freestyle, The Woodlands bounced back with another first place finish in the boys 100-yard butterfly.
Nolan Persyn took the title with a time of 49.44 seconds to advance to the state meet.
Reese picked up her second individual title with a first place finish in the girls 100-yard butterfly, with a time of 53.56 seconds. She was followed closely by Lillian Nordmann with a time of 53.95 seconds. Both qualified for the state meet.
The boys 500-yard freestyle was a back and forth battle between Houston Lamar’s Ridge Livermore and Hickman-Chow.
Livermore got off to an early lead, Hickman-Chow overtook him on the 11th turn, and finally the Lamar junior reclaimed the lead on the 16th turn.
Livermore finished with a time of 4 minutes, 30.59 seconds, but Hickman-Chow’s second place finish of 4:31.42 still qualifies him for state. Montgomery’s Luke Stuart finished in third with a time of 4:36.26 seconds.
In the girls 100-yard backstroke, Lucie Nordmann picked up another individual title - her time of 52.62 seconds was a 3.6 seconds faster than Klein Collins’ Lauren Carag. Carag and Nordmann both qualify for the state meet.
The boys 200-yard freestyle relay was a highly contested battle between The Woodlands and Startford but the Highlanders managed to overtake Stratford on the final leg to give The Woodlands the win by .21 seconds.
The Lady Highlanders won the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:36.31 and the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:25.18 seconds.
The Highlanders edged out Klein Oak in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:06.21 seconds - just .90 seconds faster than Klein Oak.
Of The Woodlands eight individual titles won on Saturday, only three were won by seniors.
“We got some good young ones coming up and they are blending in with the ones we are going to be losing after this season,” Kirchner said. “It is looking good for the future. Hopefully we can satisfy the senior’s appetites when we get to state and the freshmen know what is on the line.”
Sims picked up Montgomery’s only individual title of the afternoon with huge win in the 500-yard freestyle. The junior’s time of 4 minutes, 45.47 seconds was a little less than 13 seconds faster than the next closest finisher--The Woodlands’ Neff with a time of 4 minutes, 58.43 seconds.
When Sims finished the race, she turned around to see everyone else still swimming. She looked up at the scoreboard, a couple seconds went by, everyone else was still swimming, and a big smile spread across her face.
“I was just really happy to know I was able to have that kind of time,” Sims said. “I had some shoulder issues at the beginning of the week and that kind of affected my training. It definitely gives me some peace of mind going into state.”
Sims qualified for state in two events: the 200-yard individual medley, and the 500-yard freestyle.
Oak Ridge senior Emily Henson (50.96 seconds), edged out The Woodlands’ Staffeldt (51.05 seconds) in the girls 100-yard freestyle.
Klein Oak junior David Cooper won the boys 100-yard breastroke with a time of 58.19, but Oak Ridge junior, Zachary Hansen’s time of 58.67 was good enough for second place and he will be moving on to state as well.
Oak Ridge also qualified relay teams in the girls 200-yard medley, and the girls 400-yard freestyle relay-each with second place finishes.
In the girls 100-yard breaststroke, College Park senior Victoria Hunt narrowly beat The Woodlands’ Fields (1 minute, 4.35 seconds) with a time of 1:04.03 seconds-each qualify for the state meet.
The Tigers’ highlight of the afternoon came in the boys 100-yard backstroke. Junior Jarod McCauley finished with a time of 49.51 seconds, edging out The Woodlands’ Gomez (50.36 seconds) and Klein Oak’s Wally Basket (52.45 seconds). Both McCauley and Gomez each advance to the state meet.
Montgomery senior, Walding, edged out Oak Ridge freshman, Samantha Vear, 452.95 to 444.10. Both divers, along with Klein Oak’s Meghan Gerdes (424.90) advance to the state meet.
On the boys’ side, Hoherz dominated once again, earning himself a fourth consecutive trip to state. Hoherz finished with a score of 578.70 - the next closest score came from Montgomery freshman, Mason Williams, who had 447.15. The Woodlands’ William Walles came in third with a score of 443.60. All three will move on to the next round.
“Everyone dove so well,” Lieber said. “The competition was really stiff. You had to preform really well because if you blew one little thing it probably cost you. The kids that are advancing came through like champs. I think when we get to Austin, we will see how strong our region is by how well we do at the state meet.”