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Eagles finish 2nd in district

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PETER STEIN/NEWS-SUN

There was a lot to like for every local team competing in this weekend’s District 3/4 Championship swim meet at the CORE Center in Hobbs.

The Hobbs boys swim team did the best, finishing in second place.

And though the Hobbs girls placed fifth, they were a young group of girls that swam their hearts out. Ditto that for the Lovington boys and girls, who each finished eighth but showed noticeable improvement.

Hobbs’ diving team had yet another district championship from Gabriel Palomino, while the Lady Eagle divers had a new personal best from Lucero Contreras.

It was, all in all, a good weekend for Lea County teams, though outsiders – Clovis in the boys competition and Artesia in the girls meet – came away with district swim championships on Saturday.

The Lea County positives began with the Hobbs boys, who rang up 112 team points to earn that second-place finish.

“Yeah, that was great,” Hobbs head swimming coach Kristen Kort said. “Really nice showing. We dropped a lot of times.”

Leading the Eagles’ charge was Brendan Massis, who had gained weight from the time he walked into the CORE on Saturday thanks to the three medals that were dangling from his neck by the meet’s end. Massis captured first place in the boys 50 freestyle with a state-qualifying time of 22.73, took second place in the boys 100 free with a state-qualifier of 50.28, and contributed to the second-place boys 200 free relay team that also included Palomino, Miguel Cornejo and Ben Miller, that combined to post a state-qualifying mark of 1:36.59.

“Brendan obviously had an amazing day,” Kort said.

“I feel like I did fantastic,” Massis said. “I dropped a lot of time. I just feel like I did great.”

Finishing in second place behind Massis in the 50 free was his Hobbs teammate Palomino, who notched a time of 23.99. Palomino is known statewide for his diving ability, which resonated again on Friday when he won the district diving competition. Saturday’s swimming performance in the 50 might put opponents on notice that Palomino is also a factor in that department.

“I’m a diver for the most part,” Palomino said. “This season I really focused on getting better at diving and swimming. And it really paid off at district.”

Palomino says he enjoys competing as a swimmer. “Especially since now I’m friends with most guys on the swim team,” he said, “so it’s really fun to compete.”

But diving is still Palomino’s calling card. In fact, he has been the district champion for the past four years.

Finishing a close second in diving was Cornejo, who notched a personal best of 452.

“This year Miguel gave me a run for my money,” Palomino said. “But I was able to come out on top.”

Both divers will be headed to the state meet at Albuquerque Academy the weekend of Feb. 17-18, and could battle for the top spot there.

“If these boys’ performance is on point, and they perform competitively as they did all season, the ship will be coming back home to Hobbs,” Eagles diving coach Cynthia Calderon said.

Nathan Collins was Hobbs’ first state diving champion in 2016, and Palomino thinks he might be able to make his own Hobbs history at this year’s state meet.

“I’m excited, looking forward to it,” Palomino said. “Shooting for first there, too.”

In third place of the boys diving event was Hobbs’ Logan Manzo, who narrowly beat out teammate Ivan Godoy by 1.3. Godoy’s fourth-place finish was still impressive, as he scored 229.20 to get it.

“These two boys really excelled,” Calderon said.

In girls diving, Contreras beat her previous personal best with Friday’s score of 178.15. Though only training for six months, Contreras learned 11 dives and was able to compete in an 11-dive meet.

“We just ran out of time to get her to qualify,” Calderon said. “We have the rest of the year to get there and qualify her senior year.”

For the Hobbs girls swimmers, it was a solid meet. The Lady Eagles placed fifth, but it was a solid fifth.

“I think every single girl dropped (times) today,” Kort said. “They’re very inexperienced, but they came to swim today.”

Lovington also saw dropped times as both the boys and girls swimmers continue to show steady improvement.

“I think it went well,” Lovington head coach Matthew Paine said. “Most of my team is freshmen and sophomores. They all massively improved five or more seconds.”

Which is great in any case, but especially for a team that has so little swimming experience.

“We don’t have a feeder program,” Paine said, “and the fact that they come in and they don’t know how to swim competitively from Day 1, what they did was pretty impressive.”

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