Strong offseason gives Lady Cats hope

Clovis senior Erin Holland swims the breaststroke during a cool down lap Thursday at practice. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

Through its three-year existence, the Clovis girls swimming team has never qualified anyone for the state meet.
The Lady Wildcats hope to change that in February.

First-year coach Vincent DeMaio hopes to qualify two or three swimmers and all three relay teams.

Clovis already has a good start. Freshman Amber Espinoza in the 100-meter butterfly and junior Alyssa Pyeatt in the 100-meter breaststroke swam state-qualifying times earlier in the year. DeMaio said Pyeatt and Espinoza, along with seniors Kristin Curtis and Erin Holland, have fast enough 50 freestyle times to qualify for the 200 freestyle relay.

“I think people will be surprised at the level of our swimming, no question about that,” DeMaio said.

Most of the team has been swimming since August as part of the Clovis Swim Club. Training regiments are longer and tougher than in the past, and the work has paid off.

DeMaio, who also coaches the Clovis Swim Club, said the team has shown a 20-percent improvement in times as a whole since the summer.

“Everyone’s more serious about what we’re doing,” Curtis said.
The Lady Cats struggled in meets last year. In small meets, Clovis could finish in the middle of the pack. If it was an elite event, the Lady Cats finished near the bottom.

“That will not be the case this year,” Curtis said. “I think this season we’re going to do a lot better in everything. We have a lot of faith in ourselves.”

Holland added: “We know we’re prepared.”
Clovis opens its eight-meet regular season Saturday at Hobbs.

Because the school system does not have a swimming facility, the Lady Cats are unable to host a swim meet. They practice at Play Inc., which has a regulation-length pool but doesn’t have the necessary bathrooms, locker rooms or spectator stands to host a meet.

It also doesn’t have a diving board because the old one rusted out, so the Lady Cats don’t have a diving team and will lose points in the diving category during meets. That puts them at a disadvantage for the meet in Hobbs, where the Cats will face seven to 12 teams.

The Lady Cats expect to do well, but a disappointing finish won’t sour the excitement on the team. Training is geared toward an optimum performance at state and not individual meets.

“We’re not even thinking of peaking until the middle of February,” DeMaio said. “We’re at the very bottom rung of a very long building process.”