Crawfish Aquatics seeks its fifth consecutive title and as usual, head coach Billy Newport is reminding everyone that there’s nothing easy about going to the Big Easy for the Louisiana State Long Course Championships.
The combined efforts of Crawfish and Tiger Aquatics give the Baton Rouge area two teams expected to be in the hunt for top honors during the four-day meet that begins Thursday at the University of New Orleans.
Events Thursday begin at 5 p.m. Preliminary sessions for swimmers ages 13 and over start at 8:30 a.m. Friday-Sunday. Sessions for 12-and-under swimmers are set for 1 p.m. daily. Finals begin at 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
“Long course is grueling, and it’s something you can’t bluff your way through,” Newport said. “The thing I want our team to do is live in the moment and get as much as you can out of every single race.
“You can’t take anything for granted, and you can’t look ahead. We have to swim and let the team totals take care of themselves.”
Tiger Aquatics placed fourth in the Louisiana Short Course Championships held in February in Sulphur. The two local teams will square off against a familiar cast of contenders with competitors swimming events in meters as opposed to short-course yards measurements. Crawfish has won 10 state titles in either short course or long course since 2005.
Mandeville’s Franco’s Fins was the runner-up in February, with the City of Shreveport Swim Team taking third. Crescent City Swim Club of Metairie and Slidell’s Hurricane Swim Club also figure to be among the contenders.
Crawfish enters the meet with 76 individual qualifiers, while TAQ has 48.
“I think you’ll have at least three of four teams that will be in there competing for it (title) and we can be one of them,” TAQ coach Craig Harris said. “I think it could wind up being very close and could be decided Sunday night.
“We did very well at our Summer Classic a few weeks ago and we weren’t rested at all. I think we can swim even faster this meet.”
Along with the team title, both teams will be looking to get additional competitors qualified for upcoming zone, regional and junior/senior national competitions.
Three Crawfish competitors, John Michael Moore (100 backstroke), Austin Butler (50 and 100 freestyle) and David Rayner (400 freestyle), have top qualifying marks in the senior division for swimmers 17 and over.
Seven local competitors are top seeds in the 15-16 division. Crawfish’s John Miller (200 and 400 freestyle) and Gage Alleman (200 backstroke) are the boys. TAQ’s Alyssa Dilldine (1,500, 800 and 200 freestyles) and Joy Jason (100 and 200 breaststroke) are among the top girls seeds along with Crawfish’s MK Miller (200 individual medley), Cameron Balkom (100 breaststroke) and Caroline Beene (100 butterfly).
TAQ’s Brady Grenfell (100, 200 and 400 freestyle, 100 and 200 butterfly) is seeded first in the most events for any local competitor and will compete in the boys 13-14 division. Clayton Black of TAQ (50 and 100 freestyle) and Crawfish’s Claudia Apsey (400 freestyle) are among the top seeds in the girls 13-14 division.
Lance Rodriguez of TAQ (200 and 400 freestyle; 200 IM) and Crawfish’s Ashlyn Hunt (100 butterfly) are 11-12 competitors to note. Crawfish’s Jolee Liles (100 freestyle) helps top the list of 10-and-under competitors.
“I think swimming in Louisiana has become very balanced over the last couple of years,” Crawfish’s Newport said. “The talent is spread out and that makes it interesting.”