Belton’s Savannah Bush, left, in lane 3 and Maggie Murphy, lane 4, react to coming in second and first, respectively, in the 100-yard breaststroke Saturday at the District 12-5A Swimming Championship in Belton. 

Maggie Murphy, Belton High School’s freshman swimming sensation, knew Saturday would be a big night for the Lady Tigers in the District 12-5A Championship the moment she finished first in the 50-yard freestyle. 

Murphy looked up at the scoreboard and saw her teammates Alayne Johnson, Katherine Hennessee and Mercedes Marcus had finished second, third and fourth respectively.

“It’s a great goal to finish first, second, third and fourth in an event for one team,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of hard work and practice that goes into that. It showed me that the drive we’ve put in all season would be paying off. But it was an even bigger goal for us to finish first, second, third and fourth in the 100 breaststroke.”

And so the Lady Tigers did that, too.

In the 100 breaststroke, Murphy finished first. Lady Tigers Carissa Basaldua, Natalie Hazelwood and Savannah Bush finished second, third and fourth respectively.

When the meet ended and the raucous, packed crowd at the Roy and Jean Potts Belton Swim Center had left, the Lady Tigers had themselves a district championship. Belton’s 216 team points more than doubled second-place Temple’s 104.

“This was an exciting meet for us,” said Belton junior Samantha Pentico. “We deserve this — and I don’t mean that in a cocky way. But we work so hard, so it’s nice to see all that hard work paying off.”

It certainly paid off for Pentico.

After placing third in the preliminary round of the 100 backstroke, Pentico dominated the finals, finishing first by nearly two full seconds.

“I had talked to Samantha about a week ago about what her potential was,” said Belton head coach Mike Burt. “I told her that she could do this — finish first. And she performed like a trooper.”

Pentico, Murphy, Hazelwood and Basaldua started the night off right in the meet’s first event by earning the gold medal in the 200 medley relay.

Later, Murphy, Johnson, Hennessee and Megan Nitcher took first in the 200 freestyle medley.

In the meet’s marathon event, the 400 freestyle relay, the Lady Tiger quartet of Nitcher, Johnson, Hennessee and Jessica Bonner was sensational. They earned the gold with a time of 3 minutes, 52.92 seconds, more than 14 seconds ahead of second place Waco Midway.

Nitcher, a senior, took first in the 100 yard butterfly.

“That’s always been my favorite event,” Nitcher said. “I was pretty confident going in but it still felt good to win it.”

The Lady Tigers will compete next in the Region III-5A Meet at Rockwall on Feb. 7.

“We’ll be upping our mileage for our practices until the regionals,” Burt said. “We will be facing some very tough competition. As for tonight, I knew the girls were very strong coming into this year. But to beat everybody else by over 100 points was a phenomenal performance.”

“What we did as a team tonight feels great to all of us,” Nitcher said.

“Coach set a goal for us: to get over 200 points. And we did it.”

Contact Allan Mandell at or 254-501-7566​ and read his blog on

Pick up a copy of the Jan. 31 Copperas Cove Herald, the Jan. 31 Harker Heights Herald and the Jan. 30 and 31 Killeen Daily Herald for more stories on the District 12-5A Swimming Championship.

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