Montgomery divers Melanie Cabassol and J.J. Kinzbach both earned medals at the state meet as Cabassol finished second and Kinzbach won the boys competition in Class 4A. (Staff photo by JERRY BAKER)
Montgomery County once again flexed its swimming muscle on Saturday at the UIL state championship in Austin with two individual state champions and The Woodlands girls and boys teams finishing second and third respectively.
Both of the individual champions came from the Class 4A competition. Montgomery's J.J. Kinzbach is now two-for-two at the state meet as the sophomore sensation won his second straight diving title. Kinzbach smashed his competition in the 1-meter diving event as he finished with 521.30 points - 115.05 better than Andrews' Matt Culbertson who took second.
New Caney junior Brad Safarik also brought home a gold medal on Saturday as he edged Frisco's Hal Eubanks for the 100 breaststroke crown. Safarik finished just .24 seconds ahead of Eubanks and .30 seconds ahead of third-place Tim Burns of El Paso Andres with a time of 1:00.38.
Montgomery's Melanie Cabassol also earned a medal as the senior finished second in the girls diving competition.
In the 5A competition, The Woodlands girls used their relays and depth to finish as runner-up to state champion San Antonio Churchill. The Lady Highlanders finished with 195 points while the Lady Chargers had 204.
The Woodlands finished in the top six in all three relays including a second place finish in the 200 yard medley. The team of Ashley McClelland, Rebekah Bleyl, Taylor Weber and Shaunna Purtell swam the event in a time of 1:47.08.
In the 200 freestyle relay, the Lady Highlander team of Kelly Flynn, Weber, Purtell, and Kalyn Amundsen edged rival Oak Ridge by .64 seconds for fourth place. The Lady War Eagle team of Jessica Shamburger, Elissa Stautner, Jackie Kenline, and Meredith McCarthy swam in 1:38.67.
The Woodlands' 400 freestyle relay squad of Purtell, Gabriella Maddalena, Weber, and McClelland finished sixth with a time of 3:33.55.
Maddalena had the highest individual finish for the Lady Highlanders as she was third in the 500 freestyle. The TWHS junior also finished sixth in the 200 freestyle, one spot behind teammate Purtell. In the 100 butterfly, Weber finished sixth while Bleyl was seventh in the 100 breaststroke.
Montgomery County showed its dominance in the diving competition with four divers finishing in the top nine. Haley Haynes of The Woodlands earned the bronze while teammate Chelsea McCorvey finished fifth. Magnolia's Hannah Duckett beat out the Lady Highlanders' Vanessa Dantin for eighth place. On the boys side, The Woodlands' Drew Livingston finished fourth in the diving.
The Woodlands' John VanNatta had the highest individual finish for the county in the 5A boys competition as he took third in the 100 butterfly with a time of 50.34. VanNatta was just .01 seconds behind second-place finisher Evan Ryser of Katy Taylor.
Conroe's Sean LeNeave had a pair of eighth place finishes as the Tiger junior was edged by .03 seconds in the 200 individual medley and also took eighth in the 500 freestyle.
The Highlanders did bring home a medal in the relays as the 200 freestyle team of Michael Schuber, Brendan Schilling, VanNatta, and David Ulrey finished second behind Kingwood. The Mustangs edged TWHS by .08 seconds. The same group of Highlanders also finished fourth in the both the 200 medley and 400 freestyle events.
As a team, The Woodlands boys, who were the defending state champions, finished third with 131 points. Kingwood won the title as the Mustangs garnered 274.50 points.
In the 4A competition, Montgomery had two swimmers place in a pair of events. Freshman Kristen Gropp was sixth in the 500 freestyle and seventh in the 200 freestyle while junior Graham Mullings was fifth in the 100 freestyle and eighth in the 200 freestyle.
The Bear relay team of Travis Hubbs, Tyler Simonsen, Eric Phelps and Mullings finished seventh in the 400 freestyle and was disqualified in the 200 freestyle.