Ladybirds take first place for second year in a row (w/ gallery, video)

Julie Garcia By Julie Garcia

Jan. 25, 2014 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 24, 2014 at 7:25 p.m.

El Campo senior Kari Wilkins swims in the girls 100-yard freestyle during Saturday's District 27-4A meet at the VISD Aquatics Center. Wilkins came in first with a time of 56.07 seconds.

El Campo senior Kari Wilkins swims in the girls 100-yard freestyle during Saturday's District 27-4A meet at the VISD Aquatics Center. Wilkins came in first with a time of 56.07 seconds.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

Full results of Saturday's District 27-4A swim meet

After taking the top male and female honors at the District 27-4A swim meet with her younger brother, Matthew, Kari Wilkins realized this was one of the last times she'll be competing alongside her sibling.

The El Campo senior and sophomore have been swimming since they were 6 in a summer league program. They are strongest in the same events: the breaststroke and freestyle.

"This is my last year to be able to be with my brother up there," Wilkins said. "I'm sad, but I'm excited to swim in college."

Wilkins, who helped the El Campo girls win first place at the meet, broke one district record Saturday - a record she set at last year's meet.

With a time of 1 minute, 8.37 seconds, Wilkins surpassed her record by 1 second in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Wilkins said she is more prepared for the regional and state meets compared to this time last year.

"I'm a year older, with more experience from state, so I feel more prepared," she said. "Last year was my first year at state, and I hope to make it there again."

This is the second year in a row for the El Campo girls team to win the District 27-4A meet with 196 points.

Victoria West came in second with 71 points, Bay City in third with 62 and Victoria East in fourth with 45.

The West boys' team won first place with 120 points followed by Victoria East with 89 and El Campo with 82.

El Campo coach Richard Nava said that he drills a "team-first" concept into the swimmers.

"This is not an individual sport for us; it's a team sport," said Nava, who won District 27-4A girls swimming coach of the year. "We spread the kids out and take as many events as possible and rack up points; it's not always about first place; it's about points - for me, effort is more important than position."

Wilkins is Nava's only swimmer with state meet experience. He said that she is looking good to repeat her success at regionals and state.

"It has put a lot of pressure on her to repeat, so we've worked on relaxing," he said. "There's no more 'next year' for her, but she'll be fine. She's put in the work, and now, she's looking at the dividends."

With a strong group of freshmen this season - including Hope Williams, who grabbed first place in the girls 50-yard freestyle Saturday - Nava hopes to have more successful years with El Campo.

"We had a great day; we have a good freshmen team who are strong, and they will keep getting better," Wilkins said.

As for her next two meets as a high schooler, Wilkins hopes to improve her standings in state. She said she will decide on a college swim program around March.

"It'll definitely be in Texas," she said. "I want something kind of close to home."

West freshman Brandon Svatek broke two of his previous records Saturday, which means good news for his wallet.

"I wanted a pair of Beats (headphones) but was $100 short, so my dad helped me pay," he said. "He said if I broke my two records, he would waive the debt."

Svatek swam a 5:44:18 in the 500-yard freestyle, which beat his previous record by three seconds. He also swam a 2:06:99 in the 200-yard freestyle.

Though only swimming competitively for three years, Svatek feels ready for regionals.

"There are going to be really fast people at regionals. We're in the fastest region in the state," he said.

With six male swimmers at East, junior Joseph Huber is pleased with their overall performance.

Having a short season because of an illness, Huber felt good about his accomplishments, which included three bronze medals and a silver medal.

But he said he will work on his distance events and try to improve before regionals.

Van Vleck also competed in the meet and came in fifth place in the boys and girls divisions.

Wharton was disqualified for being a "no-show," said VISD aquatics director Debi Mease.

The Region 7 meet will be Feb. 8 at The Aquatic Center at Palo Alto College in San Antonio.



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