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Photo by Joe Harrington

Westlake swimmer Alyssa Woltemath begins the 200-yard medley relay with the backstroke Saturday at the University of Houston Wellness and Rec Center in Houston.

Even with times down across the state this year, Westlake will still be well represented at the UIL State Swimming & Diving Championships next weekend.

Four individuals and three relay teams – two girls, one boys – qualified for the state meet after posting top times at the regional meet Saturday in Houston.

“Everybody on our team swam faster than I’ve ever seen them swim,” Westlake swimming coach Isaac Grombacher said. “It was sort of a crazy year and fast region, but I’m really, really proud of the kids … It’s a little less than what we were hoping for, and the reason is because our region was incredibly fast. And times around the state were faster than usual.”

Mackenzie Franklin will compete in four events to lead the Chaparrals at the state meet, competing individually in the 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle, and joining her teammates on the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay teams.

“She’s very, very competitive and very driven and motivated,” Grombacher said. “If she can stay relaxed, she can do just about anything she wants to do.”

Ben Ussery took off fast and had a strong finish as he captured first place in the 100 butterfly, and he’ll also head to state on the 200 medley relay team.

Ussery narrowly edged Grant Pringle of Klein High School, winning by 1/100th of a second, 50.48 to 50.49.

“He’s another one of those kids that, get him in the water, he finds another gear, and there’s some speed there he might not know is there,” Grombacher said. “He’s shooting for a time under 50. I know he can get there.”

Zach Thomas gained entry in the 200 IM and will also swim as part of the 200 medley relay, while Wes Thomas made it in the 100 breaststroke.

Alyssa Woltemath will swim on the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay teams. Laurie Prinz and Margaret Beck complete the 200 medley foursome, while Taylor Flaherty and Maddy Hunt join the 400 free relay team at state.

The boys 200 medley relay team also consists of Audie Embestro and Nick Carlson.

Overall, the boys team placed third and the girls came in fifth at the Region 4-5A meet held Feb. 8-9.

Several Chap swimmers were in range to make the state meet in most years.

“Zach in the breaststroke would have been first or second in our region last year – he went fast enough to make it any year but this one,” Grombacher said. “It was insanity in that way.”

Heading into the state meet, there are two Chaps aiming to set new personal marks that go beyond the state meet.

Ussery is working toward a sub-.50.0 time in the 100 butterfly, while Zach Thomas is shooting to make it under 1:50.00 in the 200 IM.

“You make a breakthrough like that, and you’re never the same swimmer,” Grombacher said. “You never go back from that. You start to realize a lot more is possible. Both those guys seeing something like that at state would be such a thrill to get to watch, and those are a tremendous breakthrough for a swimmer’s career.”

Zach Thomas took second in the 200 IM with a 1:52.60, and Wes Thomas was second in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 57.31.

Franklin came in second in the 100 free, just missing first place by 0.04 seconds with a finish of 51.49. She was also fifth in the 200 free (1:50.63), while the girls 200 medley relay took third (1:48.99), and the girls 400 free relay came in fifth (3:33.96).

The boys 200 medley foursome was fifth with a time of 1:35.37.

The state swim meet will be held at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center on the University of Texas campus.
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