Swimmers hard work paying off

Clovis High junior Amber Espinoza prepares to push off during Wednesday’s swimming practice at Play Inc. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer

Although New Mexico is a landlocked state, the Clovis High swimming team spends most of its time in the water.

After a morning filled with weight and aerobic training, the team hits the books, then jumps into the pool five days a week to compete over the weekend nine months out of the year, coach Vincent DeMaio said.

All that hard work and preparation will have to pay off as Clovis heads to the five-team Valley Invitational meet, set for 10 a.m. Saturday.

Junior Miles Ware will lead the boys team in four events, including the 200-meter individual medley and the 400-meter relay. This is the second year for the boys program, and Ware is the team’s star pioneer earning state and a USA long course qualifying time in the 100 freestyle last week at the Pecos Invitational in Lubbock.

“Last year we were kind of feeling things out because it was the first year (for the program),” said Ware, who will start off both relays for the boys at Valley. “But this year we have a strong team. We’ll be able to improve a lot over last year, and really set some high bars for years to come.”

DeMaio said Ware is about two-hundreths of a second away from state qualification in the 100-meter backstroke, the 200-meter individual medley and the 50-meter freestyle.

Last season Clovis finished in the top three in every meet, DeMaio said, and the Cats worked all summer to improve their times at a nine day high altitude training camp in Santa Fe.

“We had a great summer, and the kids really swam well,” DeMaio said. “And so we came out in our first meet against the big Texas schools, and that work showed it paid off.”

The Clovis boys team lacked last year with four swimmers on the squad. That number has now grown to eight, allowing the Wildcats to compete in two relays and more individual events.

For the girls team, junior Amber Espinoza is the top performer. She will start off the 200-meter medley relay and also swim the 100-meter breaststroke.

Swimming is all about competition and winning for Espinoza, even in team games during practice.

“I’ve just always been competitive,” Espinoza said. “When we play games as a team, everyone always wants to be on my team, because they know I’m competitive.”

The Lady Wildcats will need Espinoza’s competitive spirit in Valley, as New Mexico carries a strong level of talent in swimming.

“Our basic goal is to develop our athletes over time,” DeMaio said, “to make sure we build a solid base.”