The atmosphere was loud and rhythmic inside the Albuquerque Academy Natatorium during the 2018 Swimming and Diving State Championship Feb. 16-17. Whistles, chants and pronounced hand signals designed to aid swimming participants as their heads bobbed above the surface of the pool for a split second dominated the senses. The result was a standing-room-only echo chamber with the added effect of high humidity.
For the first time in five years, the Taos Tigers swim team has made an appearance at the two-day showcase meet. And for the first time since 2011, swimmers from Taos made it to day two: the finals of their respective events. This year, nine swimmers made the trip, making it a first for Coach Alfredo Aleman, who has been at the helm since the 2014-15 season.
"This is a big step for our programs," said Aleman. "It's good to have our kids experience this level of competition."
Swimmers making the trip to state included Hunter Griego, Diego Griego, Alejandro Esparza, Estevan Salazar, Nathan Hernandez, Gracie Goler, Margot Goler, Ashley McMains and Mikaela Dunnam.
On the boys side, Nathan Hernandez placed 15th in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 56.16 and 13th in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:50.60. Hernandez also was part of the boys 400-yard freestyle relay, made up of Hunter Griego in the first leg, Salazar in the second leg, Diego Griego in the third spot and Hernandez in the anchor position. The team placed 16th overall with a time of 3:40.82.
The girls also made it into the finals round in the 200-yard freestyle relay and finished 14th with a time of 1:49.60. The order of the relay team went as follows: Dunnam in the first position, Margot Goler in the second spot, Gracie Goler in the third position and McMains anchoring the team. McMains also competed in the girls 50-yard freestyle and came in 13th overall with a time of 26.31-seconds - a personal best for the Taos High School junior.