For the first time in the history of the El Campo swimming program, spanning close to three decades, the Ricebirds and Ladybirds won the Region III championship.
The Ladybirds crushed their competition and the Ricebirds, with only five swimmers had to hang on, coming through with the win at the Region III meet this past weekend at the McDonald Family Aquatic Center at Lamar High School.
“I am extremely proud of the boys and girls for being Regional Champions,” El Campo swimming coach Kelly Garner said. “I see how hard they work every day, and I would have been disappointed if they had not won. I think it shows how hard they all work, and how much they all contribute to the team’s goals.”
El Campo began the swim program in 1995 and was coached by Carol Barbee and Debbie Humphreys who coached both the Ladybird and Ricebird swimmers. Since 1995 El Campo has been tied to the 5A classification until this year. The University Interscholastic League (UIL) last year voted to give 4A and below schools their own division. Normally, it’s been tough for El Campo to compete against the number of swimmers 5A schools bring. However, the El Campo swim program proved they are a solid program taking home the top honors in both the boys’ and girls’ division.
The Ladybird swim team scored 306 points, nearly 100 points more than second place Judson. The El Campo girls’ team grabbed five first-place swims with blazing times and they added another first-place finish in diving.
“It’s so cool. I had a feeling we were going to do really well with the swimmers we had, but still winning it is something else, you never expect that,” Ladybird junior Juliann Little said.
Little had regional championship swims, she was a leg in the 200-yard freestyle and medley relay and also came in first in the 50-yard freestyle. Fellow junior Riley Wallis led the Ladybirds with four championships, the 100-yard backstroke, and freestyle, and was a leg in the two first-place relay teams. Ladybird sophomore Allison Vallejo and senior Rachel Evans were also part of the relay teams. Ladybird junior Holly Foegelle took home the championship in the dive, with 20 more points than second place.
“We were really strong. We just dominated and everything was good, all of our swimmers swam really fast,” Little said. “In years past it was just one (swimmer going to state) and now the majority of our team is going, it will be a fun experience for everyone.”
There was a little more drama built into the boys win. With only five swimmers, they had to get the most points out of every event they swam and they still needed to hold on.
El Campo had no Ricebirds in the final two events and had to hope Stafford didn’t overtake them, but the Ricebirds hung on to defeat Stafford by 25.5 points, scoring 231.5 points.
The Ricebird swim team was led by senior Dylan Cook who earned the Region III Swimmer of the Meet.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Cook said. “I knew I had a good day. I figured it would be me or Zane (Garner) and I was excited I beat him. It’s very special.”
While he was happy for the award, the team honor actually meant a little more to him.
“It was a great day. Probably one of the best days of my high school swim career, likely the best day of all of our careers,” Cook said. “Being in a new region and being the first ever 4A regional champions. It’s really great and it feels real good to be the best in our region without 5A schools.”
Cook was first in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle and was also a leg in the first-place 200-yard medley and freestyle relay. Fellow senior Garner was a leg in both relays and also came in first in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly. Ricebird freshman Evan Vasquez and junior Kaden Beal were also legs in the relays.
Overall the El Campo swim program will compete in 17 events at state, up from one event last season. Garner is the only swimmer to make a repeat trip to state.
Competing for the El Campo swim team at regionals were Ricebirds Julian Aguirre, Cook, Garner, Vasquez and Beal and Ladybirds Kate Chilton, Baylie Lopez, Ciara Frisbie, Allison Evans, Evans, Little, Wallis, Vallejo and Foegelle.
The state meet will take place next Thursday and Friday at the Josh Davis Natatorium and Bill Walker Pool in San Antonio.
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