The Denton school district is sending three swimmers to today’s Class 5A state meet in Austin, and they all have unique stories for how they made it there.
Ryan senior Zachery Palmer, Braswell’s Alexa Barnes and Denton’s Seth Hermann will be in action at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.
Doubt can be a powerfully negative influence on an athlete, but in Palmer’s case, it has been a huge motivator.
Several people told Palmer he couldn’t make state, but he qualified in the 50-yard freestyle. His time of 22.28 placed him second at the regional meet two weeks ago.
“It’s definitely something to that a lot of people can’t say they’ve done,” Palmer said. “Along the way, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that you can’t do that. You’re not fast enough. You’ll never be able to make it. But here I am proving those people wrong. Those people were my inspiration. You can’t let people like that keep you down.”
Palmer narrowly missed out on qualifying in the 100 backstroke.
He has goals of making Saturday’s finals and sits among a crowd of 24 in today’s prelims looking to make the top 16.
He’ll be swimming with a heavy heart, as he recently lost his grandfather Dan Smith. He swims with Smith’s wedding ring, often looking down at it for motivation.
“My grandfather passed away back in May, but he’s a big inspiration why I kept on going and kept striving,” Palmer said. “He always told me that he was proud to see me. Last year after regionals, when I didn’t make state in 6A, he said, ‘It’s OK, I’ll see you next year.’ So this was kind of fulfilling a promise to him.”
In just her sophomore season, Braswell’s Barnes already is making history.
With her 100 butterfly time of 1:00.22 at the regional meet that placed her second, Barnes broke the DISD record and became the first Braswell athlete to make state in any sport.
“She’s got the fastest time in Denton ISD history since I’ve been here in 1991 and in the records as far back as I could find,” DISD coach Chris Cullen said. “I was really happy for her. I’m really excited for her to be the first Braswell athlete to make state and it be a swimmer.”
Braswell coach Sabrina Carlile said Barnes would be a good candidate for the difficult stroke of butterfly.
“I was told I have the build for it,” Barnes said. “I started doing it and kind of caught on. Starting out, I thought it was hard, but once I started training it got easier.”
Denton junior Hermann took up the 200 freestyle, placing second at regionals with a time of 1:48.30.
The 200 represents a middle distance event, between sprint events such as the 50 and 100 yard freestyles and distance events like the 500.
For Hermann, it came down to what he liked the most.
“I used to only swim 50 and 100 free, but I kind of got a little tired of it and I just wanted to try something different,” Hermann said. “The third 50 is always the hardest because that’s when you’re most tired after the first 100. I just have to keep up the pace. When you find an event you like and you’re doing well, it fits.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.