For several of the Denton school district’s swimmers, the district meets are either the first of three steps towards the state meet or an opportunity to improve their individual times.
Late in the season and entering the most important meets of the year, swimmers go through a process to rebuild their stamina and damaged muscles.
“Our practices have been gradually shortening up and focusing on our technique,” DISD aquatics director Chris Cullen said. “They are explosive, short sets. Instead of having two-hour practices, we shortened it to an hour so they can rest a little and sleep in a little. It allows the muscles to recover. We tore them down over the 20 weeks prior to this, so they can gradually rest and their muscles will be stronger than during the season. We will run through the relay exchanges and focus on starts and turns to fine-tune the little things.”
Ryan’s Class 5A district meet, Cullen said, concludes today and will be a bit of a challenge for the Raiders, with talent evenly distributed throughout the district.
“The 5A district is very difficult,” Cullen said. “We have Flower Mound, Hebron, [Flower Mound] Marcus, Lewisville and Coppell. There are no bad teams in there. It’s going to be tough. It’s not as tough as last year when the Guyer kids had to face Southlake [Carroll], but it will be a tough meet. We look at it as them focusing on their individual time improvement, not the overall placing so much.”
Ryan’s Aaron Lawrence has a well-balanced array of strokes that he could compete with, but given the strength of the district, Lawrence and Cullen made the decision to go with the events that give him the best chance to advance to regionals.
“Aaron Lawrence has a chance to medal and individually perform well,” Cullen said. “He’s in the 100-[yard] breaststroke and the 200 freestyle. He can swim anything, but we looked at the ones that he could do the best at. The other events, he wouldn’t necessarily be seeded as high. His primary strokes are backstroke and butterfly, so it lets him advance that way.”
Cullen said Ryan’s boys relay teams are in good position to advance to regionals, and on the girls side, seventh-seeded Mandi Sutherland has a chance to crack into the top six spots that advance.
For Denton and Guyer, their Class 4A district meet Saturday at the Denton ISD Natatorium is a tune-up for several athletes who have strong chances to advance to regionals along with a few state qualifiers.
“We will have a lot of the Denton High boys moving on to regionals in individual events,” Cullen said. “The 4A district is now is a little bit tougher. It’s improved quite a bit. A few years ago, there were seven people swimming, so if you finished you got to move on. Now, a lot of the events have 25 or 30 people in them, so you have to get into the top six. It’s pretty competitive.”
Both the Denton girls and boys are the top seeds in the 200 individual medley and freestyle relays.
The Denton boys relay teams entered the season with memories of last season’s state meet, where the 200 freestyle relay team finished 13th with a time of 1:30.45. This season’s team is seeded with a time of 1:28:67.
“We experienced success last year, so they are kind of accustomed to it,” Cullen said. “They came in, worked hard from the beginning of the year and knew what they wanted. We had somebody graduate last year, so we had two or three boys fighting for the 1-spot on the relay. Those guys saw that success last year, so it kind of raised the bar for them.”
Denton junior DJ Lang anchors the 200 freestyle relay. Lang also holds the top seed in the 100 individual freestyle with a time of 47.88, more than two seconds faster than the next seeded time.
Cullen said that along with Lang’s stout frame, it’s his dedication and hard work that have put him in position to make waves at state.
“He should make state this year,” Cullen said. “He made it last year in the 100 free. In regionals he swam a 48-something, but he has been faster this season. He swims a lot. He does a lot of work. He’s got natural ability and he works hard. Just because you swim 20 hours a week or so doesn’t make you automatically that fast.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .