ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — La Cueva Junior Keys Relay Win
Given his dramatic flourish in the meet-ending 4×100-yard freestyle relay, it’s tempting to say La Cueva’s Kris Tillery saved his best for last during Saturday’s APS Boys Metro Swimming and Diving Championships.
But that is not entirely true.
Yes, the junior finished with gusto, anchoring the Bears’ relay to a come-from-behind victory over favorite Eldorado in the finale at West Mesa Aquatic Center. Tillery lauded it as “the highlight of this year so far,” largely because a win seemed so improbable. La Cueva was seeded five seconds slower than Eldorado.
But that victory – which produced a meet record – was just the capper on Tillery’s consistently stellar day. Prior to the relay, he already had swept his two individual events, both in meet-record time. He successfully defended his city title in the 200 free, finishing nearly five seconds ahead of his nearest challenger. He then edged the top seed and reigning state champion, Eldorado senior Ian Walker, to win the 100 backstroke.
“Kris is a competitor,” La Cueva coach Vince Sanchez said. “He’s one of those guys who will show up at a meet like this and swim lights out.”
If Tillery considered the relay win the day’s most unexpected, his backstroke had to be a close second. Though they represent different high schools, Tillery and Walker are training partners on the same club team, and Walker has long been the better backstroker.
“He’d always beaten me whenever I’d raced him before,” Tillery said of Walker. “That was a shocker.”
Walker was about a second off his best time Saturday and said the loss was disappointing. He and Tillery were in a dead heat at the halfway point, but Tillery was faster on the back half. He finished in 52.99 to Walker’s 53.74.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” said Walker, who calls Tillery a good friend. “We’ll see how it goes at state, but congratulations to him.”
The day was an otherwise good one for Walker, who easily won the 200 individual medley. He also shared in the team victory; Eldorado hoisted the metro championship trophy for the third consecutive year.
Programs across the city produce individual standouts – Valley’s Dorian Holler and Cibola’s Edgar Melchor joined Tillery as double-event winners – but nobody could counter Eldorado’s depth.
That was obvious in the 200 free, in which Tillery was followed to the wall by three consecutive Eagles: Jonah Hanks, Kyle Zibbon and Stephen Jehle.
Eldorado also went 1-2 in the 100 butterfly, with senior Karl Johannes besting teammate Greg Rempe by 0.78 seconds.
Given the number of quality swimmers, Johannes said Eldorado practices are often intense and competitive.
“We just try to motivate each other so that every day we’re getting faster,” Johannes said. “Every day, we’re trying as hard as we can, always looking forward to see if we can get that state championship.”
Second to Albuquerque Academy at state last year, the Eagles’ eyes are trained on this year’s blue trophy. A city title is nice and all, but Johannes called it a “steppingstone,” and said that the celebration would be limited to a post-meet lunch.
After that, Walker added, “we keep training and prepare for state in five weeks.”
— This article appeared on page D6 of the Albuquerque Journal