State Swimming

State swimming preview: 5 things to watch in Austin

Clayton Bobo has one final meet left to cement his outstanding high school career. vype.com

Originally appeared on Vype.com

The 2018 UIL State Swimming and Diving State Championships will take center stage this weekend in Austin.

This event officially kicks off the spring sports championships season with wrestling, basketball, tennis, golf, track and field, baseball and softball to follow.

But for now lets take a dive into what you should be watching for this weekend in the pool at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center at the University of Texas.

 Bobo Swimming for Gold Again

Future Texas A&M swimmer Clayton Bobo has one final meet left to cement what has already been an outstanding high school career.

The Stratford senior will try and take gold again in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle. Last season, Bobo’s gold-medal time in the 50 was 19.95 and in the 100 he posted a 43.56.

Heading back to Austin, Bobo qualified with a time of 20.47 in the 50-yard freestyle – the fastest in the state – and a 44.64 in the 100-yard freestyle. Bobo will have some competition in the 100-yard freestyle as Katy’s Kaloyan Bratanov posted a qualifying time of 44.67, just three-hundredths of a second off Bobo’s time.

Entering this season Bobo was ranked as the 20th best swimming prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Swim Swam.

 FULL HEAT SHEETS FOR CLASS 6A

Nordmann to defend title, record at State

The Woodlands’ Lucie Nordmann wasn’t just fast in 2017, she was record-breaking, gold-medal winning fast.

Nordmann, a commit to Stanford, returns to Austin to defend her state championship in the 100-yard backstroke and also her state record time. Nordmann set the new state record last year posting a time of 52.48.

In December, Nordmann posted a time of 52.16 in the 100-yard backstroke at the Speedo Winter Junior National Championships-West.

To defend her UIL State Championship, Nordmann will once again be pushed by Cinco Ranch’s Aria Bernal. Last season Bernal finished 1.09 seconds off of Nordmann’s state-record pace. Heading into this state meet though, Bernal did post a faster qualifying time at 52.76. Nordmann qualified with a time of 53.99.

Nordmann is also competing in the 200-yard freestyle. She will have to post a better time at state to get to the top of the podium after qualifying with a time of 1:48.71, which is the third-best qualifying time in Texas. Austin Anderson’s Ella Collins owns the fasted qualifying time at 1:46.83, followed by Austin Westlake’s Dakota Luther at 1:46.84.

Montgomery’s Luke Stuart back and better than ever

Luke Stuart didn’t finish on the podium last year, rather far from it but there’s nothing better in sports than a comeback story.

Stuart entering this year in the two events he finished ninth place in a year ago, posted blazing qualifying times.

In the 500-yard freestyle, Stuart posted a time of 4:28.67, which is the second-fastest in the state. In the 200-yard freestyle, Stuart once again had the second-best time with a 1:38.60.

Compared to his state finals times from a year ago, Stuart has managed to shave roughly two whole seconds off each, making him a sure-fire contender for the podium.

FULL HEAT SHEET FOR CLASS 5A

Blazing Fast Relay Teams

Take your fastest swimmers and put them on a relay team, now these are fun to watch and Houston has a few to be on the look for, especially from The Woodlands.

In Class 6A, defending state champion The Woodlands and Ridge Point girls will duke it out in the 200-yard medley relay. The Woodlands holds the state’s fastest qualifying time at 1:44.33. Ridge Point is just 0.56 seconds slower.

The Woodlands boys will be the ones to beat in the 200-yard medley relay after qualifying with a time of 1:32.49. Last year, this group took fourth in this event. Look for them to swim for redemption in 2018.

The Woodlands girls 200-yard freestyle relay will contend again after taking third place last season. The group qualified with a time of 1:35.24, which is just eight hundredths of a second faster than Austin Westlake. Those two teams are the only ones to post a sub 1:36 time in qualifying.

In the 200-yard freestyle relay, The Woodlands and Stratford boys will duke it out. The Highlanders come in with a top qualifying time of 1:24.55, while Stratford is right behind at 1:24.64.

In the girls 400-yard freestyle relay, The Woodlands qualified with a time of 3:25.30, which is three seconds faster than the next time of 3:28.18, posted by Kingwood.

Finally, in the boys 400-yard freestyle relay, The Woodlands and Klein Oak are only separated by three-tenths of a second. The Panthers posted a qualifying time of 3:04.61, while the Highlanders had a time of 3:04.92. These two will battle it out for a spot on the podium and try to take down Southlake Carroll (3:04.16).

Divers to Watch

Samantha Vear, a sophomore at Oak Ridge, will be one of the top divers to watch in the girls one-meter dive. Vear enters with a qualifying total of 507.10. Her biggest competition will come from Southlake Carroll’s Hailey Hernandez (517.95) and defending state champion Bridget O’Neil (544.05).

In the boy’s 100-meter diving competition, La Porte’s CJ Zerbe enters with the state’s second-highest qualifying total at 483.55. He will have to beat Lewisville Marcus’ Tyson Stacey, who qualified with a 487.45. The Woodlands’ Skip Donald could make some noise for a medal as his qualifying total was 481.45.

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Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Even though the Astros have been in the last five postseasons and made it to the World Series in three of those, they still have some new faces on the roster this year that will be participating in their first playoff games. Three of them, in particular, could have impactful enough parts to play that they shape the entire fortune of the team in these playoffs.

Trey Mancini

Although Baltimore was in the hunt until the last weeks of the season in 2022, it took getting traded to the Astros for Trey Mancini to finally get his first taste of playoff baseball. Mancini debuted in 2016, and while his numbers have been frustrating since joining his new team, he is still a powerful slugger whom the Astros should use at times in the ALDS and beyond.

Whether they need to spell Yuli Gurriel at first or use him in the outfield, Mancini will be a good weapon for the Astros, especially if he can break out of his recent funk and string together some good at-bats. Before the trade, he was batting .268, a number much more in line with his career numbers than the low .176 he had with the Astros. With the time off between the final regular season game and his first plate appearance in the playoffs, I'd expect he'll have found a way to put the slump behind him and come through with some key hits.

Hunter Brown

One of the most pleasant surprises the Astros had this year was seeing the quality they could get out of Hunter Brown from day one in the majors. After being touted as the next Justin Verlander after his six-inning shutout start in his debut, Brown made another quality start before transitioning to the bullpen.

Now, the big caveat here is that Brown actually makes the ALDS roster, which, with Houston's depth, puts a good but challenging task in front of them to assemble the proper ratio of position players to pitchers, and within the pitchers, starters to relievers. Assuming Brown makes the cut, he could be a big difference-maker.

Brown has only allowed two hits and three walks in his last three appearances, most recently logging 2.1 innings of scoreless work to lower his ERA to 0.89. He has electric stuff and would be a great asset to have in a game where maybe one of Houston's starters can't make it past a few innings, and the Astros need someone to gap between them and the other relievers.

Jeremy Peña

One first-timer that we don't have to speculate about making the roster or getting plenty of playing time is Jeremy Peña. He'll be at shortstop and probably batting second behind Jose Altuve in the lineup. Entering the year with high expectations to take over for Carlos Correa, Peña put together an outstanding rookie campaign, including launching 22 home runs, matching Correa's rookie number, and coming in first amongst AL shortstops in defensive runs saved.

One area it may take him and others combined to replace Correa is going to the plate with the game on the line and coming through in the clutch. If Peña can come up with one of those "it's my time" moments in the 2022 postseason, he'll have completed the total takeover. In any case, it will be fun to see how the rookie does his first time on the biggest stage.

One of the most well-rounded teams in the league this year, and now in the playoffs, Houston has plenty of veteran experience that will make them a tough out in any series. Add in these three players, and it shows why the Astros are coming out ahead in most people's predictions.

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