Clovis coach starts feeder program for high school team

Clovis freshman Amber Espinoza swims the butterfly during practice Tuesday at the Play Inc. pool. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

The Clovis Swim Club had an unexpectedly good coming out party.

Clovis High School junior Alyssa Pyeatt and Yucca freshman Amber Espinoza each qualified for the USA Swimming New Mexico state meet at a meet Saturday in Lubbock.

“We expected the girls to swim well, we did not expect them to swim as well as they did,” first-year Clovis swimming coach Vincent DeMaio said. “They surprised everybody.”

The Lubbock meet was the Clovis Swim Club’s inaugural meet, and DeMaio said the Texas teams noticed Clovis.
“They were surprised at the quality of swimming that showed up at that meet,” he said.

Pyeatt’s first-place time was a personal best at 1:15.36 in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke in the 15-16 age division, while Espinoza finished third in the women’s 100-meter butterfly in the 13-14 age division with a time of 1:10.35. Those times would have also qualified them for the New Mexico high school championships.

In addition to Pyeatt and Espinoza, seniors Erin Holland, Kristin Curtis and Mandi Benard, junior Victoria Erdmann and 12-year-old Jacob Pyeatt picked up top-five finishes.

They swam as part of the Clovis Swim Club, a new USA Swimming team DeMaio formed to be a feeder program for the high school. DeMaio is also the head swim coach for the Lady Wildcats. He plans to combine practice for the swim club and the high school team once practice for winter sports start.

The Clovis Swim Club has spent most afternoons at the Play Inc. swim pool or in the Clovis Community College weight room. What started in mid-August as 1,000 meters of swimming a day is now up to 4,000. DeMaio said the Lady Cats’ swimming load will gradually move up to 6,000 to 7,000 over the next few months.

Holland, Curtis and Benard said the workouts are much more strenuous than in past seasons, but it’s the only way to improve.

“It’s definitely paying off,” Alyssa Pyeatt said.
Espinoza agreed.

“I’ve seen a lot improvement since the beginning of summer until now,” Espinoza said.

DeMaio has seen improved strength, conditioning and technique in the swimmers.

“What we do now will certainly be the basis for our performance in January and February,” he said. “Meets are won in the earlier parts of the training.”