By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
ALBUQUERQUE — In a way, the sight of a Clovis Wildcat cap bobbing in and out of the water while ahead of the rest of the field was a dream come true Saturday for Lady Wildcats’ swimming coach Vincent DeMaio.
While it is true that the victory of Clovis junior Alyssa Pyeatt was only in a consolation final, DeMaio wasn’t about to diminish the overall ninth-place state finish in the only individual swimming event a CHS athlete was qualified in.
“It was absolutely unbelievable. I’ve been here in the past and it really is exciting to see these girls be competitive at the very highest levels of state,” DeMaio said.
In Clovis’ third year of having a swimming program, one relay team and Pyeatt made to Saturday’s championship rounds at the state swimming and diving meet at Albuquerque Academy.
Pyeatt finished with a time of 1:13.45 in the 100-yard breastroke in qualifying heats, which was about a second slower than her state-qualifying time. Pyeatt was initially down about not making the race of the top eight qualifiers.
“I was really disappointed, because I was about a second slower,” Pyeatt said.
But her disposition changed when she easily took the consolation final (of those with preliminary times 9-through-16) on Saturday with a mark of 1:12.53.
“I feel really proud. It feels great,” said Pyeatt, who added that the whistles and cheering even in her race was quite noticeable. “It was really overwhelming. I had never been to the actual state meet before.”
That was true of the entire Clovis contingent that hit the water on Friday.
While the 400-yard freestyle relay failed to make it into the Saturday finals, the 200-yard medley relay did. Though finishing with only the 15th-best overall time, Clovis’ foursome of Pyeatt, Amber Espinoza, Victoria Erdmann and Erin Holland improved dramatically in its consolation final race.
Finishing third in the race helped Clovis to 21 team points in the meet.
“Alyssa’s time in the 50-split breast(stroke) and Erin’s 50-split in the fly were really fast times,” DeMaio said. “Those were equal to the times in the (championship) final.
There’s no doubt that those girls can compete at that level.”
“I’m kind of sad that it’s my last year, but I was just trying to go all out,” Holland said. “This was the first year that we had to actually qualify to get into the relay races. You had to actually earn it, so no one can say anything because we made it.”
Holland was the only senior of the four Clovis swimmers who competed on Saturday. DeMaio said that the work Pyeatt and the others had done were an important foundation for the still-fledgling program.
“To go as far as Alyssa has gone this year is really astounding. She goes from not qualifying to getting ninth in state,” DeMaio said. “That’s a remarkable achievement. I think she’s really beginning to find herself and find her form. She’s got a great future in front of her.”