Copperas Cove's Kyle Helmer smiles after winning his medal in the boys 200-meter freestyle relay at the District 12-5A Swimming Meet held at Belton High school in Belton. 

The Copperas Cove 400 free relay team not only stunned the crowd at Saturday’s District 12-5A Meet in Belton, they shocked themselves.

Seeded sixth in the finals, and needing a sixth-place finish to qualify for the regionals, Bulldawgs Tyler King, Zack Lineback, Chris Hastings and Kyle Helmer swam the marathon race in 3:41.58, earning third-place medals.

“I had no idea we’d do this well,” Hastings said. “Being seeded sixth, our goal was just to beat the team swimming next to us.”

“I wouldn’t have predicted a third-place finish at all,” said Cove head coach Trish Stoddard. “But I’m sure proud of all four of them. Tyler, Kyle and Chris each swam personal-best times.

“The first-leg swim by Tyler King amazed me,” Hastings said. “He swam a 52. I told myself that I’d need to beat that. I didn’t, I swam a 53, but that 53 was still my best record by 4 seconds.”

This was a big night for Cove.

The 200 medley relay team—Hastings, Joseph Hotz, King and Helmer—finished fifth. King, Mathew Larsen, Hastings and Helmer took fifth in the 200 freestyle relay. Both teams advanced to the regional meet on Feb. 7 in Rockwall.

Helmer advanced to the regionals as an individual, finishing third in the 50 free with a time of 23.82.

“I knew Kyle could swim a 23-something,” Stoddard said. “It was his personal best. All his hard work paid off.”

Also proving that hard work pays off was the Lady Bulldawgs relay team of Hannah Legare, Tarrah Strickland, Joanna Legare and Laurel Byrd.

The quartet qualified for regionals by placing sixth in the district meet in the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay.

“The key for us was teamwork,” said Joanna Legare. “Our relay team is like a family.”

Early in the meet, the Cove girls barely missed qualifying for regionals in the 200 freestyle relay.

“That disheartened us a little,” Joanna said. “But we didn’t let ourselves stay down. We just got back to thinking positive and things worked out well for us.”

Contact Allan Mandell at amandell@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7566​ and read his blog on KDHPressbox.com

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