Mac swimmers qualify for state in six events

Zaplatar, Hester qualify in two individual events and a relay; Lynch, Baylor join them as region champions in their events

The+region+champions+in+the+200-yard+medley+relay+race+and+their+coach+pose+with+their+gold+medals+and+championship+plaque+after+the+race.+Senior+Kyle+Larson+%28backstroke%29%2C+senior+Izak+Zaplatar+%28breaststroke%29%2C+sophomore+Luke+Gordon+%28butterfly%29%2C+senior+Jack+Hester+%28freestyle%29+and+head+coach+Jeff+Rudy.+

courtesy of Jeff Rudy

The region champions in the 200-yard medley relay race and their coach pose with their gold medals and championship plaque after the race. Senior Kyle Larson (backstroke), senior Izak Zaplatar (breaststroke), sophomore Luke Gordon (butterfly), senior Jack Hester (freestyle) and head coach Jeff Rudy.

Lucy Marco and Dave Winter

The swim team overcame some tough competition and an array of pandemic-related meet changes to post one of the best showings in team history at the UIL Region VII- 5A High School Swimming Championships held on Thursday Feb. 4 and Saturday Feb. 6 at the Josh Davis Natatorium Walker Pool in San Antonio.

Baylor, Lynch earn regional titles, state bids

Senior Madi Baylor and junior Zoe Lynch both earned individual regional championships at the UIL Region VII- 5A Women High School Swimming Championships on Thursday, Feb. 4. Thanks to Baylor’s first-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle and Lynch’s in the 100-yard breaststroke, the duo has qualified for the UIL 5A State Swim Meet. Originally scheduled for Feb. 19, the meet will now take place on March 2 due to snow and power outages that have hit Texas.

Baylor also won a silver medal with a second-place finish in the 100 free. Her time of 53.32 set a new school record in that event surpassing the previous record time (set by Lynch) by more than five seconds. Baylor also broke her own school record time in the 50 free with a new school record time of 24.52. The 200-yard freestyle relay team that includes both Baylor and Lynch as well as senior Ellen Fox and junior Hannah Gates placed second at the regional meet and established a new school record with a 1:44.33 in the finals.

Baylor said she was proud of how relaxed she stayed during the meet. “With spectators, and an announcer and all of these teams and swimmers,  even though regionals was much smaller this year, it’s still a pretty good amount of pressure.”

The second-place finishes do not earn automatic state bids, but the fastest eight remaining times from all region meets will earn wild-card invitations to the state meet. Coach Rudy was hopeful that Baylor (100-yard free) and the 200-yard freestyle relay team would earn one of the wild-card invitations, but they did not qualify. In a non-pandemic season, the second-place finishes would have earned bids to UIL State.

“I think ultimately, what made me super proud was that we had four girls racing, and two alternates come up as well,” Baylor said. “Having a small team of only six ladies, but everyone showing up and putting their best efforts and energy made me so proud because although it was only six of us, we all came together and even had better showings in results and attitude than some of these big teams.”

Lynch was fourth in the 200-yard individual medley, and Gates finished fourth in the 100-yard backstroke. Gates beat Baylor’s team record in the backstroke with a 1:04.54 in the prelims.

Gates said that breaking a school record makes her feel like her hard work has paid off.

“I felt amazing because after not swimming for six months, I though it would take forever to get back to where I was before COVID,” she said. “I’ve worked so hard swimming many hours with my club team and Mac.”

The 200-yard medley relay team, featuring the same four swimmers as the 200 free, earned a fourth-place finish. In prelims, the quartet set a new school record only to set an even faster pace with a 1:55.49 in finals.

Even though Baylor, along with most of the other swimmers, hasn’t been able to practice in the pool since Friday due to the winter storm, she is still stoked for the state meet.

“Before this gnarly storm came through, I had no worries, but now, there’s definitely some more concerns and toss-ups to be sorted out,” she said.

For Baylor and several other senior McCallum swimmers, the upcoming UIL state meet will be their last race in high school.

“It’s obviously my last state, last swim for Mac, and last race of my high school career so I’m just really excited,” Baylor said. “It’s very bittersweet, makes me a bit sad thinking about it, but I’ll put my best foot forward and it should be a good time, and the most fitting end to a crazy era.”

Zaplatar, Hester fuel boys to 4 gold medals

Fueled by a stellar showing from seniors Izak Zaplatar and Jack Hester, the boys swim team earned four regional titles — three individual and one relay — at the UIL Region VII-5A Men’s High School Swimming Championships held on Saturday. All four gold-medal results automatically qualify the swimmers for the UIL 5A State Swim Meet on Feb. 27.

Zaplatar took home individual gold medals in the 200-yard individual medley and in the 100-yard breaststroke.

“It was super exciting, it’s always nice to see your hard work pay off,” Zaplatar said.

Hester captured a gold medal in the 50-yard freestyle. Hester also earned a bronze medal in the 100 free. In both events, he set new school records.

Hester said he felt great to perform so well.

“All I’ve been waiting for was to perform that well, so it was nice,” he said.

Senior Kyle Larson was a bronze medalist after a third-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke.

Zaplatar, Hester and Larson were also on the first-place 200-yard medley relay team along with sophomore Luke Gordon. The relay team also set a new school record at the meet. Zaplatar and Hester both agreed that the team’s comeback at the end of the medley relay was very exciting.

“I think the medley relay we were most hyped about,” Zalpatar said. “The backstroker on their team [the opposing team] had a four-second lead, but our relay ended up coming from fourth to first by the end of the race.”

The 200-yard freestyle relay team of Zaplatar, Gordon, Hester and Marco Emami earned a bronze medal with a third-place finish.

The third-place finishes do not earn an automatic bid to state, but there remain eight wild-card qualifying spots for the fastest eight times across all regions. Hester qualified for state in the 100 free because his time of 47.24 was the fourth-fastest among swimmers who did not place first at regionals. Unfortunately, Larson (100 back) and the 200-yard freestyle team did not earn a call up to UIL State.

“Im proud of Jack for getting a school record and for making it to state in a individual event,” Zalpatar said. “I’m also proud of a lot of the other guys and girls on the team. I could go on. I’m just happy that even with a weird season the team continued to improve and get better.”

Sophomore Luke Gordon and senior Ian Wetherold were individual regional finalists in their respective events. Wetherold finished sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke and Gordon finished eighth in the 50-yard freestyle. The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Noah Cirkiel, Keegan Langley, Wetherold and Emami also made the regional finals with a fifth-place finish.

The meet was moved to San Antonio from Austin because the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on the UT campus was closed due to COVID restrictions. The meet was also held separately from the girls meet to more easily establish social distancing during the event.

Coach Rudy, junior Zoe Lynch, junior Emily Carroll, senior Madi Baylor, senior Ellen Fox and junior Hannah Gates pose for a photo last Thursday at the Josh Davis Natatorium Walker Pool in San Antonio, the site of the UIL Region VII- 5A Women High School Swimming Championships. “In general the Mac girls at practice are always positive even during the outside winter days,” Gates said. “They have bright attitudes which motivates the team to push harder and reach their goals. …We all cheered and helped each other stay motivated which is all a team could ask for.” Photo courtesy of Rudy.

The region champions in the 200-yard medley relay race and their coach pose with their gold medals and championship plaque after the race. Senior Kyle Larson (backstroke), senior Izak Zaplatar (breaststroke), sophomore Luke Gordon (butterfly), senior Jack Hester (freestyle) and head coach Jeff Rudy. Zalpatar said the medley relay race team spent a lot of time practicing, which is why they ended up with gold metals. “I haven’t been on Jack and Kyle’s climb team since COVID started, but I know they’re training just as hard as we use to,” Zalpatar said. Photo courtesy of Rudy.

The relay team of senior Ellen Fox (freestyle), junior Zoe Lynch (breaststroke), junior Hannah Gates (backstroke) and senior Madi Baylor (butterfly) finished fourth in the finals for the 200-yard medley relay race. In prelims, the quartet set a new school record only to set an even faster pace with a 1:55.49 in finals. “The relays were a blast, and I think one of my proudest moments was looking back and realizing how relaxed I was and how much fun I had, even with a lot of pressure and stress,” Baylor said.

Madi Baylor had a phenomal region swim, taking a gold and two silver medals. Her gold came in the 50-free where she upset her club teammate and district rival, Elizabeth Stromberger of Anderson, by 15 hundredths of a second. Stromberger beat Baylor in the prelims by five hundreds to enter the 50 free finals as the top qualifier, and she beat Baylor to the wall in the 100-yard freestyle by only 27 hundredths of a second. “Elizabeth Ann and I have been friends since we were like 10, so being able to race with her and hug her over the lane line after our 50 is also one of my proudest moments because I realized just how far we had come,” Baylor said. Her time of 53.32 in the 100-yard freestyle earned her a silver medal and set a new school record in that event surpassing the previous record time (set by Lynch) by more than five seconds. Baylor earned a second silver medal as part of the 200-yard freestyle relay that placed second and a ribbons as part of the 200-yard medley relay that place fourth. “From a numbers stand point, winning was also super exciting,” Baylor said. “Getting to look up into the stands and see my dad freaking out is a moment I’ll cherish forever.” Photo courtesy of Jeff Rudy.

The Josh Davis Natatorium Walker Pool in San Antonio hosted the regional meet the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on the UT campus was closed due to COVID restrictions. The boys and girls meets were also held separately each other in order to more easily establish social distancing during the event. Photo courtesy of Jeff Rudy.

The boys sent three relay teams to regionals and five individual competitors, swimming in seven events. Coach Jeff Rudy’s (far left) list of swimmers included (from left to right) junior Noah Cirkiel (400-yard medley relay), junior Keegan Langley (400-yard medley relay), senior Izak Zaplatar (100-yard breastroke, 200-yard individual medley, 200-yard IM relay and 200-yard freestyle relay), senior Kyle Larson (100-yard backstroke and the 200-year IM relay), senior Jack Hester (50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard IM relay and 200-yard freestyle relay), sophomore Luke Gordon (50-yard freestyle, 200-yard IM relay and 200-yard freestyle relay), senior Marco Emami (200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays) and senior Ian Wetherold (100-yard breaststroke, 400-yard freestyle relay). Photo courtesy of Rudy.

Juniors Hannah Gates and Zoe Lynch and senior Ellen Fox pose with the medals and ribbons they earned at Thursday’s UIL Region VII- 5A Women High School Swimming Championships held at the Josh Davis Natatorium Walker Pool in San Antonio. Gates earned a fourth-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke.  In the prelims, Gates beat Baylor’s team record in the event with a 1:04.54. Lynch earned a gold medal in the 100-yard breaststroke and a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley. All three swimmers and senior Madi Baylor (not pictured) earned silver medals with a second-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay and ribbons for a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay. In the 200-yard freestyle relay, the four swimmers established a new school record with a 1:44.33 in the finals. In the 200-yard medley relay, the quartet set a new school record in prelims only to set an even faster pace with a 1:55.49 in finals. Photo courtesy of Jeff Rudy.

Senior Madi Baylor captured the gold medal at regionals in the 50-yard free style, upsetting the top qualifier and club teammate Elizabeth Stromberger of Anderson. Video reposted from North East ISD Athletics YouTube Channel.

Junior Zoe Lynch came into the 100-yard breaststroke as the top qualifier and she delivered with a comfortable victory after a closer race in the prelims against Elizabeth Walsh of Alamo Height. Lynch won the regional championship in a time of 1:05.94, more than a second faster than Walsh’s 1:07.33. Video reposted from North East ISD Athletics YouTube Channel.

In the boys 200-medley relay, McCallum roared to a comeback victory after Alamo Heights jumped out to a huge early lead. Jack Hester completed the epic final freestyle leg to win in 1.37:54, a mere 0.18 ahead of second-place Alamo Heights. Video reposted from North East ISD Athletics YouTube Channel.

The top qualifier for the 200-yard medley relay, senior Izak Zaplatar beat his rivals from Anderson (Chase Hays and Andres Brooks) and LASA (Cade Dulaney) handily. Hays had the early lead after the butterfly leg, but Zaplatar overtook him in the backstroke leg, then used the breast stroke leg to extend his lead to 15 yards. Zaplatar cruised to a half-pool length victory by the end of final freestyle leg. Hays and Brooks of Anderson were second and third, but Zaplatar was the only swimmer to post a sub-two-minute time at 1:58.26, his margin of victory was more than six second faster than any other swimmer in the race. Video reposted from North East ISD Athletics YouTube Channel.

Two Knights were in the pool for McCallum in the 50-yard freestyle finals: top qualifier Jack Hester in Lane 4 and sophomore Luke Gordon in Lane 2. In a close race, Hester beat Anderson rivals Dylan England and Thomas Woodley to the wall. Hester was the only swimmer to beat 22 seconds at 21.46. England was second in 22.15. El Campo’s Gage Garner finished strong to take third away from Woodley by a mere 0.13 seconds in 22.23. Gordon finished eighth at 22.91 in a very tight field of speed racers. Video reposted from North East ISD Athletics YouTube Channel.

The top prelims qualifier in the 100-yard breastroke, Zaplatar was back in Lane 4 for the finals again. Teammate and fellow senior Ian Wetherold also made the finals in the event and swam in Lane 7. Zaplatar raced side by side with El Campo’s Gage Garner through the first 50 yards then held off his challenge to beat him the wall by 1.35 seconds in a sub one-minute time of 58.59. New Braunfels Canyon swimmer Benjamin Skinner was third in 1:02.47. Wetherold was sixth in 1:05.47. Video reposted from North East ISD Athletics YouTube Channel.