Freshman Luis Conejo and junior Nick Balmer should star for Rio Rancho at this weekend’s NMAA state swimming and diving championships at Albuquerque Academy, while a slew of quality divers should be the story for Cleveland High.
Conejo enters Friday’s preliminaries with the second-best time in the 500-yard freestyle and the No. 3 seed in the 200 free. Balmer, meanwhile, has the No. 2 seed in the 100 breaststroke and is No. 4 in the 200 individual medley.
Stacy Salinas — who coaches Rio Rancho and Cleveland simultaneously — said Balmer will likely need a phenomenal effort to surpass favorite Dorian Holler of Valley in the breaststroke, but that his pre-state training taper often does wonders.
“He could come up with an amazing swim — I wouldn’t be surprised,” Salinas said.
The Rams’ Ryan Fairhurst could also contend in the boys 1-meter dive.
But when it comes to diving, Cleveland has the state’s best depth. The Storm qualified four boys for the 1-meter springboard, and Salinas said junior Levi Smith is a legitimate threat to win it all.
With a pair of top-five seeds, Tyler Lynch should lead the Storm’s boys swimming contingent.
On the girls side, Salinas said Rio Rancho senior Rebecca Barnreiter, sophomore Hanna Harper and Cleveland sophomore Jordan Sousa have the best chance to advance to Saturday’s finals.
State preliminaries are set for Friday, with diving beginning at 8:30 a.m. and swimming to start at 3 p.m. Saturday’s finals begin at 11:30 a.m.