Cameron Goeldner | News-Bulletin photo
A Los Lunas swimmer competes in the butterfly during Saturday’s meet at Belen High School, which was the first event of the year for county swim teams.

The swimming and diving season got underway on Saturday, April 10, at Belen High School as the Eagles hosted the Belen Spring Fling.

The meet featured all three Valencia County high schools and was originally supposed to include Socorro as well. However, SHS pulled out after multiple COVID exposures within the team.

This year, the season for swim and dive is only six weeks long, a far cry from the usual four months teams have to prep for the state championship.

“The energy was interesting,” Belen head coach Andrea Montaño said. “We’re all still trying to get used it.

“I’m pretty satisfied with the kids and how they performed. They were hitting times close to where they were at the end of last season which is good, particularly with how short this season is.”

Belen finished first on both the boys and girls side, the girls finished with a score of 188, edging out Los Lunas, who finished with a score of 185.

On the boys side, BHS won by a much larger margin, finishing with a score of 265 while Los Lunas came in second with a score of 155. Valencia finished in third in both cases, the girls earned a score of 15, while the boys had a score of 44.

“We always have the goal of having some state qualifiers,” Montaño said. “It’s just that normally we have four months to get them ready and cut times”

Already, there are teams and individuals emerging within the team who Montaño thinks will be able to achieve the goal of qualifying for state, which will be held beginning on Thursday, May 13, at Albuquerque Academy.

“The boys medley relay we’re excited about. We have some individuals who are in the area of state qualifying,” Montaño said.

“We just want to see them dropping time every week if we can, but it’s pretty exciting just to have them back in the pool again.

“Some DQs we need to clean up, don’t want to have that going forward. just have to make sure everyone is legal.”

BHS has the benefit of returning a majority of its swimmers, so there hasn’t been a lot of catching up for newcomers to the team to do. Montaño said she was pleased to be able to get the three newcomers to the team out and swimming, with the trio swimming in four different events, to get their first meet under their belts.

The most exciting race of the day was the boys 4×50, a race which the Eagles won by less than a second over Los Lunas.

Cameron Goeldner | News-Bulletin photo
A Belen swimmer competes in the backstroke on Saturday at the Belen Natatorium.

The anchors for the two teams, Dylan Jones for Belen and Joshua Jones for Los Lunas, are brothers.

“We had a pretty good lead going into that last leg,” Montaño said.”But (Joshua) is more of a sprinter and so he was able to get close. That one was really exciting. That was the race where the energy felt the most like it would during a normal meet.”

The biggest challenge the shortened season brings for Montaño is the compression of their training.

Normally, the Eagles are able to spend a week or a few weeks at a time on each skill and focus just on it. Now, that time simply isn’t there.

“We’re condensing a lot of the training where we normally spread it out,” she said.” Typically, we concentrate on things for a week. Now we have got to get two or three things at a time. We got lucky we had some preseason at least.

“We’re still able to work in some dry land training and some strength training as well.”

Belen was also able to honor their own seniors, as well as the seniors for Los Lunas and Valencia at the meet, which Montaño was glad they were able to do — recognize them after what they have gone through in the last year.

“Just knowing what they’ve gone through with not having seasons last spring or in the fall and not having the opportunity.

“It meant a lot, Kelsey Hershberger’s parents happened to be there helping with timing which would out nicely. We were happy to honor them and we always extend the courtesy to Los Lunas and Valencia and any other schools who happen to be here. We know not everyone has the luxury of having a home meet.”

All three schools are back in action Thursday night, swimming at the BHS Natatorium as part of the virtual Griffin Invitational, which will officially be held on Saturday in Santa Fe.

Times will be reported by the coaches on Friday and the event will be officiated by officials sent down from Santa Fe in order to ensure uniformity between the virtual event and the in person one.

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Cameron Goeldner grew up in Boulder, Colo., and attended the University of New Mexico. He covers everything sports for all Valencia County schools.