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Swimming and Diving: LA girls finish 2nd at state

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By Mike Cote

ALBUQUERQUE — Los Alamos’ swimmers entered the Albuquerque Academy Natatorium carrying a 4-foot diameter smiley face.Following the New Mexico state championship meet, one could scarcely find a Hilltopper not wearing that same grin.The Hilltopper girls took second place at the state title meet Saturday, picking up 248.5 points behind only La Cueva’s big 312 points. The ‘Topper girls, meanwhile, deadlocked with Farmington for seventh place Saturday, earning 136 points. As expected, Academy cruised to a lopsided win with 406 points, nearly double the total of Sandia Prep in second place.Senior Kara Leasure wrapped up her prep career with a state in the 200-yard individual medley and state runner-up slot in the 500-yard freestyle.Leasure came back from a nearly three-second deficit — an eternity in swimming — at the halfway point, but overtook Rio Rancho’s Alex Fenton to claim the individual title. The senior turned in a time of 2:15.15.The spread was so big even Leasure thought Leasure wouldn’t be able to get back into the race.“My first thought that came to mind when I was transitioning from backstroke to breaststroke was ‘there’s no way I’m going to catch her.’ She was at least a body length ahead of me.”After the butterfly leg, Fenton held a quarter-second lead over Leasure. Then, in the backstroke leg, Fenton tore through the 50 yards with a 32.70 split. Ironically, Leasure’s split of 35.72 was actually about two seconds better than her Friday split in the same leg, but she still found herself in a big hole.But Leasure pulled off the comeback, cutting Fenton’s advantage down to less than a second after the breaststroke. Leasure’s freestyle leg gave her a solid quarter-second victory.Leasure also made a big push at the end of the 500 freestyle to edge out Farmington’s Audrie Tracey for second by two-hundredths of a second.The decision to have her swim the 500 freestyle at all was something that didn’t sit particularly well with Leasure’s mom, Hilltopper coach Bev Leasure, who said she didn’t perform very well at state when she tried to double-up those events last season.As with the 200 IM and 500 freestyle, Los Alamos’ day would be filled with some big personal outings. Virtually every Hilltopper swimmer picked up a personal best time this weekend in at least one event.“The guys are doing really well,” Colton Lake said. “We came in with good attitudes. No one was all that scared to be here.”Lake had the top finish of the meet for the Hilltopper boys, taking fourth in the boys 100 backstroke, turning in a time of 56.37, a nearly three-second drop from his seed time heading into Saturday’s final.That finish came just two events after Lake helped teammates Micah Putnam, Paco Venneri and Dylan Lake to a fifth-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay.To compliment Leasure’s two big events, Sammi Kao was second in the 100 butterfly and fourth in the 200 freestyle to go along with two top-four relay finishes.Coach Leasure said Saturday was a mental struggle for Kao.“She still did the job,” she said. “That really helped our performance.”Alisa Romero, a freshman who was on both the 200 medley and 400 freestyle teams, said she was thrilled to end what she’d felt what was a personally lackluster season with a bang.“I hadn’t been doing too well this season,” Romero said. “I had a few good meets…but I came into this one saying ‘let’s make this best meet and just go for it.’”Romero said every one of her swims Saturday was a career best for her. In the diving competition, Lisa Anne Hendricks was ninth overall, picking up a score of 270.80 for eight dives, and Lauren Bucklin was 13th with 222.55.Full results from the state swim meet will be in Tuesday’s Monitor.