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Swimming and diving: Lake leads LA to win at open

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By Mike Cote

It might have seen like a long time coming, but Colton Lake wasn’t complaining.With just one chance remaining to qualify for the state swim meet in the 50-yard freestyle, Lake blazed his way to a 23.18 finish in the event at Saturday’s Los Alamos Open, more than two-tenths of a second below the qualifying mark of 23.39.Lake was the sole member of the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys swimming team to break the very difficult qualifying time in the event for the 2007-08 season.“I’m just really happy all the hard work finally paid off,” Lake said after the meet.Los Alamos won both the boys and girls competition Saturday, both in convincing fashion. The Los Alamos girls won their fourth straight meet, garnering 226 points, while the Los Alamos boys, with 155 points, were 41 points better than second-place St. Pius X.Only five girls teams and four boys teams competed in Saturday’s meet. Most of the other teams in the area opted for the Capital City Invitational held Saturday in Santa Fe.Lake had previously had some close calls in the 50 freestyle before finally going under the qualifying standard. At Albuquerque Academy three weeks ago, Lake missed the cut by just a hundredth of a second, and was just .11 seconds off last weekend at Santa Fe Prep’s meet.Lake said a relaxed training schedule this week made a big difference in attaining the mark.“I wasn’t sore at all coming in,” he said. “I felt like I had a lot of energy.”Several other swimmers went into Saturday’s competition very near event qualifying marks. While there were several close calls, those final attempts came up short.Los Alamos’ boys had high hopes in the 100 freestyle Saturday, with both Paco Venneri and Micah Putnam within striking distance of the 52.49 qualifying mark.Venneri and Putnam finished one-two in the event, but just missed the mark, Venneri by three-hundredths of a second and Putnam by five-hundredths.Venneri, a senior, won’t miss out on the state championship meet, however. Hilltopper head coach Bev Leasure said she will very likely place him in all three state title relays.The state meet will be held Feb. 22-23 at Albuquerque Academy’s Natatorium.On the girls side, Lauren Castro flirted with her state cut time in the 100 backstroke but fell about a half-second short in her quest.The Hilltopper girls will go into the state meet with a shot at a team title, but will have to find a way to get by the favored La Cueva Bears.“I’m hoping to get first, but I’m expecting to get second,” Hilltopper Sammi Kao said. “We really have to pull together and put in some great swims.”Kao had a good day for Los Alamos Saturday, picking up season-best times in both the 50 freestyle (first, 26.70) and 100 backstroke (first, 1:06.51).But Kao, who qualified in every single swimming event this season, said she doesn’t think she’ll swim either of those at state. She was instead looking mostly likely at the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly, as well as the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.Alexandra Hamada won the girls 200 freestyle, out-touching Castro, Kara Leasure won the 100 freestyle and Alisa Romero beat out the only other competitor in the 500 freestyle, Hilltopper Chris Ventura.Along with Lake’s win in the 50 freestyle and Venneri’s win in the 100 freestyle, Dylan Lake took first in the 200 freestyle and Putnam won the 100 breaststroke.In Friday’s diving competition, Lisa Ann Hendricks and Lauren Bucklin took first and second, both easily outdistancing the field.With two weeks to prepare, Los Alamos planned to start cutting yardage this week so its swimmers would be fresh for state.“They’re on track, everybody’s on track,” Leasure said. “They’ll rest a little more this week and the week after we’ll really cut back.”