By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Last week Stillwater High School swim coach Kurt Goebel was not happy with the way his team swam against Edmond Memorial — vowing to put his team through the grinder during practice.
As it turns out, that hard week of practice paid off as Stillwater swept Tulsa Union Tuesday at the Stillwater Family YMCA.
“This week it was a lot faster for me,” Stillwater sophomore Francisco Ochoa said. “The pool temperature was OK, it wasn’t that hot and I learned some new strategy from my races and I dropped a lot of time.”
Tulsa Union came in as the defending Class 6A state champions, but that didn’t deter the Pioneers, who blew out the Redskins 194-92.
“Union was lacking a couple of their big studs, but I think because of our depth we would have ended up prevailing anyway,” Goebel said. “The kids went into every race wanting to win. From the first-seed through our fourth-seed, they wanted to win and that is something that we really want to happen. Now we just have to maintain that through the holidays.”
Led by Ochoa, who finished first in the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 2:07.29 and second in the 400-meter freestyle with a time of 4:33.22, the Pioneers grabbed an early lead and never looked back.
Stillwater’s swimmers won seven of 11 events, including all three relays.
“The boys swam tough,” Goebel said. “The Union boys were state champions last year, so they weren’t a team to be taken lightly. They’re going to have a long road ahead of them. I thought our boys did a nice job of competing against one of the state’s top teams.”
Along with Ochoa, Mac Johnson finished first in the 200-meter individual medley with a time of 2:25.90, while Charles Clark edged teammate Matthew Tree in the 100-meter back stroke with a time of 1:07.66. Blake Payne turned the tables on Clark, slipping past the junior in the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 1:05.81.
But the win over Union means more than beating the defending champs for Ochoa. Outside of the high school swimming season, Ochoa trains with the Union coach and he said he already plans to rub this win in a little.
“It feels great,” Ochoa said. “Tulsa Union is really good and their coach is a great person. I’ve been trained by him and they had a really good team last year. ... It’s always nice to beat Union, no matter what.”
The Pioneers may have breezed past Union, but the same couldn’t be said for the Lady Pioneers. Stillwater needed all of its points to pull out a 127-104 win over the Lady Redskins.
“It’s always good to win a meet,” Stillwater sophomore Alex Thomas said. “Coach Goebel let us work on our turns and he really helped critique us. I think that helped a lot because we worked on our underwaters and starts. Starts and turns are a real big thing in meets.”
Like the boys, Stillwater’s girls swept the relays, paving the way to the win. The Lady Pioneers also got a couple of strong performances from freshmen like Lauren Gattis and Kayla Dunn to help spark the team.
“With freshmen, we kind of get lucky because they don’t really know what they’re getting into,” Goebel said. “Once they find out what they’re getting into, they have a little bit of fun. That’s what we want — to get them to have a little bit of fun.”
Gattis and Dunn finished first and second in the 50-meter freestyle, with Gattis edging Dunn by 54 hundredths of a second with a time of 32.22 seconds.
Thomas also won the 200-meter individual medley with a time of 2:42.88 and the 400-meter freestyle, recording a time of 5:18.03. Sydney Goad took first in the 100-meter backstroke (1:15.49) and first in the 100-meter freestyle (1:09.63) to help the Pioneers build a comfortable lead heading into the 400-meter relay.
“We knew that they had the exact same numbers that we did,” Goebel said. “It was pretty obvious that we were lined up pretty closely, but it was good to see our girls come out with a win.”