TWHS defends regional swim championship; Area swimmers advance to state
By: Eric Barton , Assistant Sports Editor

The Lady Highlanders defended their regional championship on Saturday by taking first place again at the Region IV-5A championship at the Josh Davis Natatorium in San Antonio dominating the competition with a 150.8 point total.
The next closest team was Pflugerville, who turned in a point total of 80.4 for the day.
Aiding The Woodlands was the first place 200 Freestyle Relay team consisting of Kelsey Amundsen, Amanda McClelland, Kalyn Amundsen, and Shaunna Purtell. The team dominated the next best finisher Klein with a time of 1:37.25.
The Woodlands also had another first place relay team in Kelly Flynn, Taylor Weber, Gabby Maddalena, and Shaunna Purtell, who took first place in the Women's 400 Yard Relay race with a 3:30.21 time. The team's finish was four seconds faster than their first place Prelim time.
Shaunna Purtell, Gabby Maddalena, and Taylor Weber shared individual successes on Saturday with each swimmer taking first in different individual races. Purtell took first in the 50 yard freestyle race with a 24.30 second time, just .2 seconds faster than Klein Collins' Tiffany Van Dongen and first place in the 100 yard freestyle race with a 52.00 second time.
Maddalena took home first place in the 500 yard freestyle race and blazed past the competition with a 4:49.75 time, four seconds ahead of the next place finisher. Weber took home first place in the 100 yard butterfly race just one second ahead of Conroe's Nuffy Swanson.
Conroe's Sean LeNeave improved his second place Prelim time on Saturday to earn an automatic entry into the state championship by finishing in first place by only .6 seconds ahead of Klein's Brian Kushner. His dramatic finish gave him a second place seed for the state championship in Austin on February 25.
LeNeave also finished second in the 200 Free race, but had the fastest call up time out of all the other swimmers in the state, giving him another state championship qualifying event and thrid place seed at the state championship.
"It felt pretty good," LeNeave said. "It was surprising. I thought I would be faster than that. I put in the work and i feel it's starting to pay off. A little surprised on the other swimmers though. I expected a little faster times from them."
LeNeave's high positioning at the state championship gives him a good chance to become a state champion, and the Tiger swimmer expects to do just that.
"I expect to stay up on the medal potium, but there's going to be some tough competition there. It's pretty intense," he said.
New Caney's Brad Safarik qualified for the state championship with his first place finish in the Boys 50 Yard Freestyle on Saturday at the Region V-4A Championship and followed that performance up with another first place finish in the Boys 100 Yard Breaststroke.
Montgomery had a first place team finish in the Boys 400 Yard Relay race with help from Graham Mullings, Brady Maddox, Corbin Carlson, and Eric Phelps.
Phelps also enjoyed individual success with his first place finish in the Boys 100 Yard Backstroke with a 56.19 second time.
Montgomery's J.J. Kinzbach thrashed the competition in the Boys 1 Meter Diving competition with a point total for the finals consisting of 600 points. Kinzbach's 600.45 points was 201.60 points higher than the next best finisher in Montgomery's Jake Kinzbach.
Despite having three individuals and five relays qualify for Saturday's Region V-4A Finals, no Willis swimmers made it past the regional competition and advanced to the state meet.
Although the meet wasn't as successful as head coach Dana Fossmo wanted, the meet didn't go without surprises along the way. Taylor Wood established a record in the 200 Free race, breaking the two minute barrier for the first time to qualify for the final race, where he finished in eighth overall place.
"He was pretty excited and went out a little too fast," Fossmo said. "He is learning how to use his energy wisely during a race. He made great strides in the 200 free this year. He also swam a new record in the 100 Free but didn't qualify for the finals."
Another surprise for Willis came in the Girls 50 Free as Shara Hoffman was disqualified from swimming due to a false start.
"It was so close and she was really disappointed to not get a chance to swim," Fossmo said. "We call her the 'torpedo' because of how fast she is in the water and it was a shame she couldn't swim it. I think she would have made the finals. She also swam the 100 butterfly and just missed qualifying for finals. She is just a freshman so we look for good things in the future."
Team wise, the Willis' Girls finished 10th overall with District Champ Klein Oak taking first place. The Boys finished 8th overall with Lamar taking the top spot. Fossmo added that one of the biggest aspects of the meet was the fact that all of the top teams at the meet practice year round, compared to Willis, which is only seasonal.
"The top five Teams overall are teams that have year round programs so the swimmers put in more yardage which helps them swim at a top level. Our team has done very well with the limited practice time," Fossmo said. "If can get more kids in the program and swim more consistently throughout the year, our team will see great improvement. We could see our team move to the next level."

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