Midlothian Swim Teams Are Thriving Despite Venue Challenges

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male and female swim team members MISD
Courtesy photo

Ain’t No Stopping The Midlothian Swim Teams

For a pair of programs that began the season with no pool to call home and no place to practice before the regional competition, the Midlothian and Heritage High School swim teams have done very well this season.

One might say they warmed up to the challenge.

“It has, indeed, been quite the adventure. From losing a pool for the first month of training, to losing a pool going into championships,” said Midlothian Coach Jaron Ward.

As the 2022-23 season approached, both Midlothian and Heritage found themselves with no pool in which to practice when the pool at the Main Street Gym had to be shut down permanently in August due to needing an exorbitant amount of repairs. That left both teams searching for a new home.

 

Duncanville’s ISD stepped up and offered the use of their natatorium, just in time for the season.

Then, right before UIL Region 2-5A Meet in Mansfield, the heater went out at the pool in Duncanville. So, Jan. 26 was the team’s final practice – 10 days before the regional meet on Feb. 6-7.

Oh, and there was the ice storm that hit North Texas the week before regionals, which, forced the postponement of the meet from Feb. 3-4. Schools were closed the entire week, and getting to practice would have been a huge challenge, perhaps even dangerous.

Missing Hours In The Water

“From what I can tell, most teams were able to get some practice in on Friday and Saturday, some even on Sunday, going into the region meet. The lack of swim time did hurt several of my swimmers, but they rallied and did a great job, anyway,” Ward said.

This season was one filled with adversity: losing our pool right as school was starting, traveling to Duncanville in order to just practice every day, the heater going out in the Duncanville Natatorium right before the regional meet, the freeze that had us all at a standstill,” said Heritage coach Cassandra Canales, in the first year with her program, as is Ward.

Stephenson headed back to the state

The greatest success of the season is Midlothian senior Jon Stephenson making a return trip to the state meet this Friday and Saturday at the University of Texas in Austin. This will be his third trip to state.

Stephenson will compete in the 100-yard backstroke after finishing third at regionals with a time of 54.73 seconds. He finished third by less than half a second. However, after the automatic qualifiers from each region (first and second place), the UIL “calls up” the next eight fastest swims from across the state for each race.

“Had Jon swam his normal best time, he would have finished first or second, so I am hoping we can keep him in the water until we go, and give him another chance to go a new best time,” Ward said.

“I am optimistic that he will make finals this year, and that more of the team will qualify next year. It is not his best time, but it was enough to get him to state. If we can stay in the pool every day until race day, we should be good to race at his best, however.”

Stephenson’s best time in the 100 back is 53.45 this season, a school record, which Ward said, “We believe he will break in Austin.”

And though he didn’t qualify for state in the event, Stephenson also owns the school record in the men’s 200 butterfly, a time of 55.81 earlier this season.

“I am really excited for our Panther counterpart at MHS, Jon Stephenson,” Canales said. “He has worked so hard this season to get to this point. He is humble and kind, and we – the Heritage Jaguar swim team – are rooting him on. I truly believe he will finish his high school swim career strong with a strong showing at state.”

Midlothian Swim Team

The Panthers had 15 races qualify for regionals from the district meet. Fourteen of the fifteen qualifying races make it to finals at regionals and eight of those were in the A-final (eight fastest). They had 10 lifetime best swims.

Along with the aforementioned records by Stephenson, the following school records were broken this season:

Women’s 200 freestyle – Junior Maggie Hunter, 2:09.80. The previous record was also hers, which she swam in November.

Women’s 50 freestyle – Junior Madiana Lofgren, 25.85.

Women’s 100 freestyle – Lofgren, 56.96.

Women’s 500 freestyle – Maggie Hunter, 5:42.32.

Other standouts included:

Freshman Sabrina Brunson made the B finals in both the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke at regionals. Junior Aaron Melton, junior Brayden Anaya, sophomore Aidan Branscum, sophomore Preston Cassell, sophomore Hunter Byrd, sophomore Kevin Roman, and senior Trey Elliott all played pivotal roles in relays this championship season, as did seniors Natalie Becker and Emily Steed on the women’s side.

“I am so incredibly proud of all of them, how much they have overcome and grown. They have poured in hours of dedication in the pool, the weight room, and the track – yes, my swimmers run,” Ward said.

Heritage Swim team

While Heritage had no swimmers qualify for state, the season was nonetheless a big success, Canales said, highlighted by several strong performances at regionals.

“Sophomore Lucas Cagle was the swimmer we had our eye on as our best chance to qualify for state,” she said. “He took fourth in both of his events with [personal records] each time.

Both events are super competitive and he held his own.”

Cagle competed in the 200 free for the first time back in December and has since improved that time with every swim, posting a 1:53.29 at regionals.

“That last swim was only his sixth time racing that event, pretty impressive,” Canales said. “His 100 breaststroke was the event we thought he had the best chance of making it in. He swam a 1:03.97, which is a school record for us. He broke it for the first time at the District 8-5A championship, a record that has stood since 2019, and has since broken his own record with every swim since.

“This young man has so much promise and we expect him to be a state qualifier next year.”
The Jaguars are young. Out of 15 on the final roster, two were seniors and two were juniors. The team had four sophomores and seven freshmen.

Senior Alyssa Ashmore swam on the 200 medley relay and then subbed in for Day 2 at district on the 400 free relay. She finished her high school swimming career with personal best times after being one of the swimmers affected by the move to Duncanville.

“She was not able to practice with us due to her nursing class requirements, but swam meets for us anyway because she wanted to still contribute to the team in any way she could,” Canales said.

Junior Delaney Williamson returned to the team after a year off and had a strong showing at district, barely missing the top six in the 200 IM. Junior Samantha Walsh also had a strong performance at the district meet with personal bests in her races.

On the boys’ side, sophomores Greg Guy and Vincent Fuentes were alternates at regionals. Fuentes qualified for regionals as a freshman but spent much of this season healing a shoulder injury.

“Because we are such a young team, there is so much potential and promise for the future of this program,” Canales said. “I couldn’t be more proud to coach this group of kids and I couldn’t be more thankful for the families, our school and the district, and our community who worked so hard to ensure that this program didn’t just survive the obstacles we faced throughout our season, but to thrive in the face of all that adversity to be as successful as we were this season.”

This week swim team members have spoken to the Mayor, the school board and the City Council about the immediate need for a pool. Focus Daily News will continue covering this story as it progresses.

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Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and three granddaughters