LA CUEVA’S TRIPLE THREAT CAUSES DOUBLE TROUBLE FOR OPPONENTS
It’s not every year a high school swim program in New Mexico has a Division One caliber talent. This season La Cueva has more than one pool prodigy. First there’s Natalie Jones, defending state champ in the 50 yard freestyle event. She’s headed to Arkansas.
“Natalie is great, she’s got the right amount of competitiveness,” said head coach Jared Price. “She’s good at encouraging her teammates and uniting the team as a captain.”
Then there’s senior Chrysten Pacheco, headed to Houston in the fall, the defending state champ in the 100 yard butterfly.
“She’s our most competitive individual,” added Price. “She lives for the competition. I think that’s her main drive.”
Jack Hoagland rounds out the triple threat. He’ll swim for Notre Dame next year. He’s the state record holder in the 200 yard and 500 yard freestyle races.
“I call him a machine,” said Price. “There’s nothing he can’t do. He’s also like Natalie and really good at uniting the team.”
All three of these swimmers push each other in the pool every week.
“The competition drives each other just to see who can do the best between the girls and the guys,” said Hoagland.
“People have been saying since we were 12, because we’ve been on the same team, ‘You guys are all going to go D1’ and we’re like, ‘You know, we’re 12.’”, joked Jones. “It’s been awesome, I love swimming with them. They’re two of my closest friends. We continually push each other.”
“During practice we all swim in the same lane,” explained Pacheco. “We’ll push each other with ‘hey, you should be going this speed’ or ‘hey, you should be going this time.’”
The entire La Cueva swim team had to make a major adjustment this season. The Bears have a new head coach. Former Sandia High School assistant Jared Price replaces Vince Sanchez who died last year. Filling those shoes has been a tough challenge.
“It’s been hard, definitely for all the juniors, seniors and sophomores,” said Hoagland. “It’s been different, but at the same time Jared has pushed this team to our limits.”
“It has been a pretty difficult transition just coming from Vince who had all this experience and had been there for a long time, but I feel like it was the best transition we could have had,” said Jones.
“It’s absolutely been difficult, but it was easier than I expected,” said Price. “Obviously those shoes are near impossible to fill. Vince was a great coach and it’s tough to fill those shoes completely, but from the feedback I’ve gotten and my own abilities I’m confident I’ve done a good job and so far the team has been very strong and accommodating and it’s been really nice.”
“With Vince in mind we’re motivated to do well this season for him,” said Pacheco.
With three individual defending champs on the roster, there will be a lot of schools out to try and beat the Bears at state next month.
“We’re the kind of athletes where we know there’s a target and that drives us to do better,” said Pacheco.
“Everybody knows we’re a threat this year for state which definitely puts a target on our back,” said Hoagland. “I choose not to look at that and try to focus on within our team and what we can do to be better. We know we can win state and if we know that we can then we can.”
“I just feel like this year I want to go out knowing I did as good as I can and my team did as good as we can and we had as much fun as possible while we did it,” said Jones.
The La Cueva girls won last week’s Albuquerque Metro Championships. This week, the boys will take part in the annual event. The meet starts Saturday with the swim events beginning at 10:45 am at the West Mesa Aquatic Center.