GILROY — Gilroy Gators swimmers Halee Chavez and Adrianna Queen have big dreams. They both see collegiate competition in their futures — and they are hoping the Gators will get them there.
Both Chavez and Queen joined the team when they were much younger, but for different reasons. Chavez was inspired by a friend to try out the sport and she has excelled.
The 12-year-old set three of the Gators’ nine new team records during their meet at Gilroy High Saturday and Sunday in 100-meter backstroke, 200m breaststroke and 200m individual medley. She also had five top three finishes — including four firsts — in the 100m freestyle (first), 100m back (first), 200m breast (first), 100m butterfly (first) and 200m IM (second). There were 300 swimmers competing at the meet.
“I can’t believe I’ve gone this far,” Chavez said. “I remember when I couldn’t swim in the big pool and I used to be so scared. Now I feel like I’m actually going somewhere.”
Chavez also set and achieved her goal to qualify for the Far Western meet over the weekend in the 11-12 girls 100m free and 100m fly. Far Western is one of the biggest age group meets in the country, drawing teams from all over the U.S. and some from Canada and Mexico. It will be held April 3-6 in Morgan Hill. Gators coach Martine Armstrong said times for this meet are much tougher than Junior Olympics.
Chavez is the youngest of the senior teammates, but Armstrong said you wouldn’t know it watching her practice. She leads her teenaged teammates in runs and in sets, attending practice every morning at 4:15 a.m. and again after school. She has the unique advantage of having a coach who is also a college advisor at California State University Monterey Bay, so she has a leg up on what it will take in the water and in the classroom to reach her goal — and Armstrong said she’s doing it.
“This girl, I believe, has a 4.0 and she puts it (the work) in the pool because she wants to be good,” Armstrong said. “There’s a lot of kids who talk it and say it — they have the dream without the drive. She is definitely someone who has the dream and the drive.”
Queen, on the other hand, got her start with the Gators after a family trip to Hawaii when she wouldn’t go in the water. After arriving home, her parents signed her up for swim lessons and the rest is history.
“I started to get faster and I really love the sport now. I can’t stop now,” Queen said.
Queen, 14, picked up four top three finishes over the two-day meet, finishing third in the 1,000m free, 200m IM, 100m fly and 200m fly.
The duo’s nine top three finishes were just a fraction of the team’s 57 at the meet. Their successes seemed to inspire other teammates like Emily Tupper, 10, and Maria Higginbotham, 13, who led the way with six top three finishes a piece.
Tupper set her first team record in the 500m free, which was also fast enough to qualify her for Far Western.
“When she got out of the water, she was in tears when I told her she qualified for Far Westerns,” Armstrong said. “I’m thinking she’s upset (because she finished second) and she looks at me, hugs me and says ‘Tears of joy.’ This kid, when I came to the team, had only been swimming six months. She came from a gymnastics background. When you talk about competitive, she was that 9-year-old that wanted to beat everybody in the pool.”
Tupper also qualified for Far Western in the 100m fly which she took second. She also finished second in the 50m back — good for a new Junior Olympic time — and 200m IM and third in the 100m back and 50m fly. Armstrong said she’s hoping for at least one more Far Western qualifying time in the next few weeks and has a few swimmers that she believes can make it.
“A lot of them are hungry now,” Armstrong said. “They’ve seen how close they are, so it’s like ‘OK, I’ve got to go to practice. I’ve got to work hard because I’m really close to my Far Westerns (time).’ I’m hoping for at least one more, but I’m thinking we can get at least three more to qualify.”
Higginbotham finished first in the 200 m free which broke Debbie Snodgrass’ record set on Jan. 1, 1982. She also placed first in the 200m back, 100m fly and 200m fly and second in the 200m IM and 1,000m free.
Corey Latham (18) set a new Gators record and dropped 46.82 seconds in the 1,000m free, earning his first Junior Olympic time and was one of three swimmers to do so. Eight Gators earned new JO times at the meet.
Amy Tupper, 8, rounded out the Gators’ nine new club records breaking the previous in the 500m free. She picked up a 37.12-second drop in the 100m back and finished second in the 25m breast.
“For me, all in all, I don’t even think amazing would be the word to use for this meet,” Armstrong said. “We have a meet next weekend in Bakersfield and I’m trying to tell myself ‘Don’t let it be a let down’ because those kind of results two weekends in a row don’t happen.”
New Team Records: 9
Halee Chavez (12): 100-meter backstroke, 200m breaststroke, 200m individual medley
Maria Higgenbotham (13): 200m freestyle, 200m back
Emily Tupper (10): 500m free
Corey Latham (18): 1,000m free
Amy Tupper (8): 500m free
Qualified for Far Western: 2
Halee Chavez (12): 100m free,100m fly
Emily Tupper (10): 100m fly, 500m free
New Junior Olympic times earned: 8
Cassidy Foster (10): 100m free, 100m fly
Diana Gordon (10): 50m back, 50m fly
Payton Reeder (10): 100m free, 50m breast
Emily Tupper (10): 50m free
Emiliano Grieco (9): 50m back, 100m back
Brianna Mertz (12): 100m back, 200m breast, 200m IM
Maria Higginbotham (13): 200m free, 1,000m free, 200m back, 100m fly, 200m fly, 200m IM
Corey Latham (18): 1,000m free
Earned JO times for first time: 3
Emiliano Grieco, Diana Gordon, Corey Latham
Biggest time drops:
Amy Tupper (8): 37.12 seconds in 100m back
Kate Craig (10): 24.06 seconds in 500m free; 21.07 seconds in 100m fly
Elian Castilla (12): 33 seconds in 200m breast
Corey Latham (18): 46.82 seconds in 1,000 free
Top 3 Finishes: 57
Maria Higginbotham (13): 1st in 200M free, 200M back, 100M fly, 200M fly; 2nd in 200M IM, 1,000m free
Emily Tupper (10): 2nd in 500m free, 50m back, 100m fly, 200M IM; 3rd in 100m back, 50m fly
Halee Chavez (12): 1st in 100m free, 100m back, 200m breast, 100m fly; 2nd in 200m IM
Even Franklin (16): 1st in 100m breast, 200m IM; 2nd in 50m free, 200m back; 3rd in 200m free
Michelle Brunido (16): 2nd in 50m free, 200m back, 200m free, 200m IM; 3rd in 100m fly
Payton Reeder (10): 2nd in 50m breast, 50m fly; 3rd in 500m free, 100m fly and 200m IM
Corey Latham (18): 1st in 50m free, 200m free, 100m fly, 1,000m free
Ahash Francis (15): 1st in 200m back, 100m fly, 400m IM; 2nd in 200m free
Brianna Mertz (12): 2nd in 50m breast, 200m breast; 3rd in 200m fly, 200m IM
Adrianna Queen (14): 3rd in 1,000m free, 200m IM, 100m fly, 200m fly
Brandon Lomeli (14): 2nd in 50m free, 200m IM
Cassidy Foster (10): 3rd in 100m free, 50m breast
Emiliano Grieco (9): 3rd in 50m back, 100m back
Amy Tupper (8): 2nd in 25 breast
Tekarra Lopez-Medina (8): 2nd in 25m butterfly
Diana Gordon (10): 3rd in 50m back