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The Los Alamos Hilltopper boys and girls swim teams will have their first test of the winter 2013-14 season when they go to Albuquerque this weekend.
And they will see a familiar foe to start out: the Albuquerque Academy Chargers.
Los Alamos gets its season started early as it makes an appearance at the Peter B. Barney Relays, an annual kickoff meet hosted by the Chargers at their natatorium.
In addition to it being the programs’ first competition of the year, it will also be the first time the boys and girls will go out under new head coach Stuart Corliss.
Corliss was hired in August to replace Rusty Bernstein, who had led the programs since the 2008-09 seasons.
He said heading into the meet, which is swum in the most storied pool in the state, could be a little nerve-wracking for him.
“I’m going to have butterflies,” Corliss said. “The coaches at Academy, they’re involved through the second generation. They’re institutions in New Mexico.”
The Barney Relays are an odd beast, in more ways than one.
For swimmers, the invitational offers a chance to compete in several events they won’t see again for the rest of the year, such as mixed-gender relays and 200-yard backstroke and butterfly relays. There is even a diving relay where the overall scores of three divers are added together.
Los Alamos is a regular competitor at the event. Last year, the Hilltopper boys finished second behind Academy, earning 90 points and the Hilltopper girls were third, picking up 66 points.
Corliss realizes this isn’t a typical meet for anyone involved, but he still expects good numbers for his team.
“I don’t know what they’ve done in the past, but people say it’s an easy meet. They can swim through the races,” he said. “I have no interest in having them swim through…if there’s no one to compete with in the pool, they can race against the clock.”
There are eight schools scheduled to compete Saturday. More often than not, the top teams from the previous year’s state meet are invited to attend.
Corliss said he was busy juggling his lineups and hadn’t completely made up his mind which swimmers he wanted in which events, although he said he was expecting to have more than 30 swimmers ready to go Saturday.
Following Saturday’s race, the Hilltoppers will be off until Dec. 7 when they host their one and only home meet of the year.