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Prep swimming: Los Alamos splashes way to big-school title

Darien O’Donnell, left, and Eldorado teammate Trey Robison celebrate their 1-2 finish in the 50-yard freestyle at the boys’ state meet. O’Donnell won in 20.85 seconds. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

The final day of the 2021 spring high school swimming season belonged a little bit to double champions like Darien O’Donnell, Jamin Harlan and Orion Henderson. It belonged also to the Los Alamos Hilltoppers, this year’s big-school state champion. And it belonged, for the final time, to Hall of Fame coach Dave Barney.

The boys state swimming and diving championships on Saturday at the Albuquerque Academy Natatorium saw Los Alamos claim the blue trophy, scoring 397 points in the rare, one-day meet. There were no prelims this season, only finals.

Eldorado (316) and La Cueva (270.5) also won trophies.

Henderson, a 6-foot-2 junior for the Hilltoppers, posted a pair of impressive victories.

In the 200-yard individual medley, Henderson finished in 1 minute, 50.69 seconds, six seconds ahead of Eldorado freshman Cole Bettis. Henderson’s mark was an All-American Consideration performance.

It also was a personal best for him in this event by 2 seconds.

“I went out smooth in the fly, totally relaxed, breathed a lot so I had enough energy to bring it home,” said Henderson. But his winning time was not entirely expected, he added. “That was very surprising, especially with no prelims, because I didn’t know how I was feeling completely. It worked out better than I thought.”

Later, with his long, languid, water-eating strokes, Henderson cruised to victory in the 500-yard freestyle final, winning by nine seconds, touching the wall in 4:35.37.

O’Donnell, who is leaving in a few weeks to begin his college swimming career at the University of Kentucky, had a pair of All-American Consideration wins. First he covered the 50-yard freestyle final in a swift 20.85 seconds. A little later, he added the 100-yard butterfly title, in 49.53 seconds. And he swam the opening leg in Eldorado’s state-winning 400-yard freestyle relay.

“It’s crazy,” said O’Donnell. “Shockingly, COVID has actually helped me train harder. The past five months, I’ve been getting up at 5 in the morning to lift and swim.”

In the 50 free, his teammate, Trey Robison, helped the Eagles go 1-2 in that event.

“I’ve been telling him all season we were gonna do that,” O’Donnell said.

Cibola’s Harlan posted victories in the 200 free, where he dominated with a four-second edge, and the 100 backstroke. He is now a two-time state champ in the former.

“It went exactly the way I expected,” Harlan said following the 200 free. “I swam that race for the last 10 years of my life. I knew exactly what I had to do.”

Retiring Academy coach Barney was honored in a short pre-meet ceremony. The 89-year-old retires having coached 21 Academy boys teams to state titles, and 21 Academy girls teams to state titles.

“Very poetic, as a matter of fact,” Barney said at the end of the meet Saturday as coaches and athletes from many schools lined up to thank him and pay respect.

The last individual champion he’ll ever coach at Academy was senior Aidan McKinley, who captured the 100-yard freestyle final. McKinley also swam a leg on the Chargers’ winning 200-yard free relay.

“I really love coach Barney,” said McKinley, who is not planning to swim in college but will attend Clemson. “I think he’s a great guy, and he’s done a wonderful thing for Academy. I’m sad to see him go, but it’s good for him to go do something else.”

Academy finished just outside trophy consideration, in fourth place, 30½ points behind third-place La Cueva.

Santa Fe Prep, in 16th place overall, was the small-school state champion.

The other two individual event champions were Farmington’s Mosiah Seavey (1-meter diving) and Los Alamos’ Max Corliss (100-yard breaststroke).

(*-small-school state champion)
Los Alamos — 397.0
Eldorado — 316.0
La Cueva — 270.5
Albuquerque Academy — 240.0
Cibola — 136.0
Albuquerque High — 114.0
St. Pius X — 99.0
Santa Fe — 85.0
Hobbs — 84.0
Sandia — 82.0
Farmington — 82.0
Cleveland — 66.0
Rio Rancho — 52.5
Volcano Vista — 48.0
Clovis — 45.0
*Santa Fe Prep — 40.0
St. Michael’s — 34.0
Las Cruces — 31.0
Cottonwood Classical Prep — 31.0
Taos — 26.0
Carlsbad — 13.0
Alamogordo — 7.0
Hope Christian — 4.0

200-yard medley relay: 1, Los Alamos (Ming Lo, Max Corliss, Konstantin Nelson, Andy Corliss), 1:35.56. 200-yard free: 1, Jamin Harlan, Cibola, 1:40.22. 200-yard IM: 1, Orion Henderson, Los Alamos, 1:50.69. 50-yard free: 1, Darien O’Donnell, Eldorado, 20.85. 1-meter diving: 1, Mosiah Seavey, Farmington, 470.15 points. 100-yard butterfly: 1, Darien O’Donnell, Eldorado, 49.53. 100-yard free: 1, Aidan McKinley, Albuquerque Academy, 46.97. 500-yard free: 1, Orion Henderson, Los Alamos, 4:35.37. 200-yard free relay: 1, Albuquerque Academy (Aidan McKinley, Sam Papenguth, Ethan Fricke, Connor Dalton), 1:27.21. 100-yard backstroke: 1, Jamin Harlan, Cibola, 51.41. 100-yard breaststroke: 1, Max Corliss, Los Alamos, 57.54. 400-yard free relay: 1, Eldorado (Darien O’Donnell, Cole Bettis, Gage Sheldahl, Nolan Arnholt), 3:09.53.

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