Swim team members discuss their experiences


The Magnet Tribune: courtesy photo

J.W Nixon swim team is photographed after competing in the district meet on Jan. 19.

Michelle Rodriguez, Staff Writer

Nixon Mustang swimming team members have many great experiences to discuss after some members advanced to the region meet.

The Nixon swim team has been in existence for three years now.

The team started with fewer than 10 swimmers but this year had about 25.

The first two years the team was in 5A until this year when Nixon moved up to 6A.

The team had 10 matches before the district meet in San Antonio on Jan. 19.

Afterward, the Mustangs took four relay teams and two individual events to region.

One out of the 4 relay teams s that Nixon took to district received third place.

Two weeks after district the team traveled to Brownsville to compete in regionals.

None of the four relay team advanced to the finals, which were held in the same location the following day.

Swimmers described how their season was and what they liked the most about the Mustang swim team.

Maritza Gomez, head coach, graduated from Nixon and has returned to teach reading.

“When I returned to Laredo two years ago, I got offered a job as an English teacher here at my alma mater. I graduated from Nixon in 1989, and then they needed someone with an aquatics background to help Coach Salas. I was the only one in the district with those qualifications so they asked if I could volunteer while they worked something out,” Gomez said.

She has also coached in other places.

“Last year I started as a volunteer coach. I was coaching at San Antonio before that, and before San Antonio, I was coaching swimming for UISD for their high school program,” Gomez said.

While she is a coach she never saw herself as one.

I never saw myself as a coach at all. I actually didn’t know to swim, and I never thought I would be a coach,” Gomez said.

Coach first started coaching at Nixon as a volunteer coach but then the situation changed.

“So, when I volunteer as a coach and everyone was pretty much surprised that I was volunteering because there are not that many coaches that do swimming as a volunteer. So, then a position opened this year and I applied. I went to the panel interview and days later I was called and offered the position. It was just unbelievable. I never thought I was going to be a coach at my alma mater and not just any coach but it’s a coaching opportunity to coach the first swim team at Nixon HS and it’s just an amazing feeling coming back and coaching such great kids,” Gomez said.

This season she sent some of her swimmers to recruit. They went class by class asking, “Anyone interested in being part of the swim team,” Gomez said.

The team ended up having 32 swimmers, 17 more than last year.

“As a volunteer last year there weren’t that many swimmers, so one of my goals was to increase the numbers. Last year 12 ended up going to region under 5A,” Gomez said.

Like most athletes who do two or more sports, some of them had to quit.

“I know that if we needed to be a strong team and do well as 6A we definitely needed to increase our numbers but not just bodies. We needed swimmers,” Gomez said. “I started recruiting once I became the head coach here at Nixon and we had some of the current swimmers help me bring in more swimmers and my goal was to have at least close to 40 kids.”

She said some are dedicated to swimming, while others are shared with another sport.

“We ended up signing up close to 32 and out of those 32, because we are sharing athletes, there are other swimmers that play other sports besides swimming. We will sometimes have 25 that will attend practice. We ended up taking 19 to region and 24 to district, so it was just standing out,” Gomez said.

Even though the team is doing well, she said, extra help will not hurt.

The team needs more speed, Gomez said.

The speed will not only help the team advance to region, but to the regional finals.

“We’re definitely going back to district. We came in also third place at district with the 400 free relay. I think that for this coming year what we need to improve is definitely our speed,” Gomez said.

Speed will be important.

“We need to go a little bit faster than what we did this year. I’m sure we will do well this coming year at district, but speed is what will help us at region. We came up really short at region in advancing to finals. The top sixteen advanced and we came in seventeenth place so definitely, speed will be a major factor in helping us advance to region this coming year so sprinting is what we are going to be focusing on along with adding more events since we are fairly a new team. The majority of the swimmers basically know the freestyle and we need them to know all the stokes so that we can be more competitive,” Gomez said.

Expectations coach has for herself are to be a role model for all her swimmers, to help them through every moment they go in life.

“Expectations as a coach is to continue to be that role model, continue to pursue accomplishing or helping my swimmers accomplish their goals not just in athletics but also academically. They can’t just be a great swimmer and not have a goal in academics. So that is one of my goals. One of my goals as well is to help my students get scholarships and maybe get signed to swim at a university or a college and of course be here for them even after college as a resource, continue to have my doors open and have my students feel comfortable contacting me even way after high school and college,” Gomez said.

Gomez said as a coach and teacher she wants the best for her students and swimmers.

“I’m just very proud of the group that I have as a team this year. One of the things that we are known for here at Nixon is that we are known for making comebacks so we got seventeenth place this year. Next year we will be sixteenth and in the finals,” she said.

Destiny Sanchez is a junior swimmer who started swimming this year.

“My friend Albert told me that I should try it. He told me that I will really like it. Once you start talking to your teammates you will really feel like you have a strong friendship with all the team. With time you will really like the bond that you will start having with all the swimmers,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said she would not change anything about the team.

“I just like it the way it is,” she said.

Sanchez said that she feels like she does well every time she dives into the pool.

“I think I can better if I try harder and keep practicing, I also want to get better at swimming,” Sanchez said.

For Sanchez her first competition was good. Her time for the 50 free event was 50 seconds.

“I think that I didn’t do that bad for my first competition, but my goal is to swim in less than 50 seconds,” Sanchez said.

She set her goal and accomplished her goal in her second competition. She did a 50 free in 45 seconds.

Even though Sanchez was new to swimming and she had very little time 0n the team she accomplished her goals quick.

Nelly Avila, 14 and a freshman, was one of the girls that advanced to region with a relay team.

The day that they were in San Antonio competing at district she was not supposed to be in that relay but the fourth swimmer had an asthma attack.

“I still remember coach’s words, ‘Come on Nelly. We need a fourth swimmer. Take your sweater off,’” Avila said.

“I was kind of nervous because I was not expecting to swim another time. I totally thought I was done for district but it turned out that, that last swim took me to region with the rest of the team,” Avila said.

“When I heard that all the Nixon girl relays were going to region in a few weeks I got even more nervous and started practicing even more,” Avila said.

She said that she still has 3 more years to go and in those, she will do her best so that every year she will have a place at region.

“I know that I have the capability to go to regionals every single time that the Mustang swim team goes,” Avila said.

Avila said she really likes all her teammates and the coaches.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m not trying well enough and I should quit but then I will be letting all the team down and I don’t want that,” Avila said.

Dayana de Leon, 15, a freshman, was part of the team also.

“Being able to be part of the swim team was a big privilege for me,” she said.

The main reason why De Leon joined the team was that she wanted to try it out. She said she turned out to be pretty good at swimming.

“The part that I like the most about (the) swim (team) is that whenever we will go to competition, we will spend at most 5 hours in the complex,” De Leon said. “My teammates and I have a lot of time to talk and goof around when we were not competing.”

“But whenever we have an event coming up we get all calm and try to not get nervous,” she said.

Something she would change is the swimsuits. 

“I know its minor, but I would change the swimsuits. Like, no joke. Whenever we were at competitions, we would say to each other, ‘good job, pickles’. The swimsuits were green, the same color as pickles,” she said.

Something that De Leon wants to get good at is her diving.

“In most of the competitions I dive in and do a belly flop because I don’t know how to dive in,” she said.

When De Leon went to her first competition she got a little bit nervous. When she got nervous, she probably forgot one of the most important rules, so she got disqualified.

It wasn’t until she got on the bus to head back home when she noticed. Even though she did not do well in her first competition she said she kept getting better and better throughout the season.

One of the things that she really enjoys from swim is traveling with the team. She gets to spend more than 3 hours talking to her friends on the way to competition, and about 4 hours at the competitions.

“Whenever we are not competing, my friends and I are always clowning around and spending time together,” De Leon said.

“One thing that I also liked about going to competitions was that we will always get breakfast tacos, Chick-fil-A for lunchtime and Whataburger for dinner. So, like we will get fed good,” De Leon said.

De Leon said she doesn’t know is she will be able to keep competing for the Nixon swim team the next season due to some events she has the same days she has to go to a competition.

The swimmers hear Gomez’s motto daily before they enter the pool.

“Swim fast or go home,” Gomez says.