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Swimming and diving: LA starting at Barney Relays

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By Mike Cote

It appears that things will continue to go swimmingly for the Los Alamos Hilltopper aquatic teams as they head into the start of the 2009-10 season.

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Los Alamos boys and girls swimming and diving teams will open their season Saturday at their usual venue, Albuquerque Academy’s Natatorium, where they will take part in the Barney Relays.

The Hilltopper teams have been among the most successful programs in the state and this season doesn’t appear to be an exception.

Los Alamos’ boys have a strong core returning from last season, in which they finished third at the state championship meet, while Los Alamos’ girls swim team lost just two state point-scorers off last year’s fourth-place squad.

The losses on the girls side could be softened considerably with the addition of some talented younger swimmers, including eighth-graders Kerry Song and Ashlynn Bennett, who have shown tremendous promise during the club swimming season.

Most of Los Alamos’ key members are year-round swimmers and many of them competed at the recent club event, the Lobo Invitational.

Rusty Bernstein, who along with co-head coach Cindy Black will be going into his second season leading the Hilltopper swimming program, said many Los Alamos swimmers had very impressive showings at the Lobo meet, which he hopes is a harbiger of things to come during the regular season.

“The high school kids who swim at club look really good for this time of year,” Bernstein said.

Even better for Los Alamos’ prospects is that it should only improve as the season goes on.

Freshman Jennifer Mooday, who finished fourth for Los Alamos at state in the 200-meter freestyle, is still working out with the cross country team, while other fall sports participants are still trying to get their sea legs under them.

Los Alamos’ lone state champion, Victoria Maqueda, will return for her senior season as well.

Maqueda upset both Albuquerque Academy’s Tess Lemon and Abby Branch to earn the state championship in the 100 breaststroke, winning the finale in a time of 1:07.45, about four-tenths of a second better than Lemon.

On the boys side, Bernstein said he’s expecting big things from senior Dylan Lake.

Lake finished fifth last season in the 500 freestyle and could be the verge of a breakout season in 2009-10.

Lake and senior Alex Baker will be asked to carry the boys team during the absence of its top finisher at the state meet last season, Micah Putnam. Putnam is spending this semester as a foreign exchange student in Japan. He’s expected to return to Los Alamos in January.

For Los Alamos’ diving team, state qualifier Kelsey Neal returns for her senior season.

Eddy Dai is Los Alamos’ lone boys diving competitor.