Belton fell just short of its goal, but produced an impressive performance, nonetheless.
Plano edged out the Tigers by eight points to win the Region III-5A swimming and diving meet Saturday at the Rockwall ISD Aquatic Center, but Belton delivered the highest finish in school history and set five school records en route to its second-place showing.
Despite the disappointment of defeat, the Tigers understood their efforts were not in vain.
“We were so close, but didn’t quite get over the hurdle,” Belton head coach Mike Burt said, “but they know what they did. They know how well they did, the number of records they set, and they know their efforts over the course of the year and the last four years, honestly, has paid great dividends for them.”
Austin Couillard set school records in the 50-yard freestyle (21.80) and 100 backstroke (53.07), while Mitch Anderson produced a benchmark run in the 500 freestyle (4:49.19), and Joey Martin broke the record in the 100 breaststroke (59.85). Then, the senior trio joined Benjamin York to break the 400 freestyle relay record with a second-place time of 3:12.71.
The performances helped the Tigers accumulate a total of 213 points — 20 more than third-place Dallas Jesuit.
“We were able to get some kids finishing top three, top four and top five,” Burt said. “We didn’t get a winner, but we swam out hearts out.”
The Lady Tigers also made a splash, finishing eighth overall as Megan Nitcher set a pair of school records. As part of the 400 freestyle relay, the junior’s time of 55.83 in the 100 freestyle portion of the race set a school record, as did her third-place time of 59.40 in the 100 butterfly.
Additionally, during Friday’s preliminaries, Belton set a school standard in the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:51.61 as Nitcher, Jessica Bonner, Margaret Montgomery and Carissa Basaldua teamed up.
With no seniors on the squad, Burt believes things can only get better.
“We’re making some progress,” the coach said. “The experience that we got this year will certainly help us in that situation next year.”
No Belton swimmers advanced to state with their performances, but several have an opportunity to be called up if another state-qualifier is unable to attend the state competition Feb. 22-23 at the University of Texas as Austin’s Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center.
Both of Temple’s teams also finished in the top 10 as the Wildcats placed eighth overall as and the Tem-Cats were 10th.
But the day belonged to senior Robby Stenman, who qualified for state in two events. The senior won the 100 butterfly (52.18) and the 100 backstroke with an all-American qualifying time of 51.08.
“Robby winning the butterfly and making state was a really high point,” Temple head coach Trey Sullivan said. “He qualified for first place in the 100 back by at least half a body length on everybody.”
As a team, the Wildcats were one of nine teams to finish with at least 130 points, totaling 135 points — two points shy of beating out McKinney Boyd for seventh overall — while the Tem-Cats produced 92 points to round out the top 10.
Junior Tanya Bott narrowly missed medaling by 22 hundredths of a second, finishing fourth in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:01.87.
“She probably should have taken one more stroke to the wall,” Sullivan said. “She just needed a little bit.
“(Overall), we had a really good day. From where we started the season to where we are right now, it is just tremendous (improvement).”
Harker Heights’ and Shoemaker’s boys teams both placed in the top 20, finishing 12th and 17th, respectively, while, for the girls, Harker Heights was 13th, Ellison finished 20th and Copperas Cove was 23rd.