Clark, VanOtteson earn medals at state meet

Jake Newby
jnewby@pnj.com

FARMINGTON — The Piedra Vista and Farmington swim teams returned with one individual medal apiece after facing tough competition at this year's state swimming and diving championships on Friday and Saturday at Albuquerque Academy.

Piedra Vista's Ben VanOtteson (top middle) and Farmington's Raimi Clark (top right) pose with their coaches Nancy Pinckley (far left), Ian Donaldson and Kristi Lucero at the state swimming and diving competition on Saturday at Albuquerque Academy High School.

With only eight qualifying swimmers and divers on the Panthers side and 10 for Farmington, both area schools knew it would be nearly impossible to crack the top 10 as a team.

La Cueva's girls won a state title by amassing 291 points and Albuquerque Academy earned the boys state title with 306.

The Lady Scorpions placed 16th out of 25 schools with a point total of 17 behind diver Raimi Clark, who medaled for placing in the top eight. The Lady Panthers were just two points behind Farmington in 18th.

PV's boys finished 20th out of 26 with 17 points. Diver Ben VanOtteson took home a medal for the Panthers, who finished ahead of Farmington for the first time this year. But there was a very unique and specific reason for that.

Junior Trenton Grossheim, who broke three district records two weeks ago, missed the 100-yard butterfly event during Friday's preliminaries because he mixed up the scheduled start time of the race, Scorpions coach Nancy Pinckley said.

According to the New Mexico Activities Association, if a swimmer misses an event, that swimmer is disqualified for the remaining events of that meet. So after faring OK in the boys 100-yard individual medley prelim, Grossheim was forced to sit out the remainder of Friday and Saturday's state meet.

"We were all heartbroken," Pinckley said. "For Trenton's fantastic season to end like that, it was just so hard to deal with. But he still has his senior season ahead of him. I don't think he'll be missing anymore start times."

Without their best swimmer, the Scorps finished in 21st place with 13 points.

Clark was great for FHS, finishing three points ahead of the ninth-place diver to earn her medal. Pinckley said Clark's hard work this season paid off in Albuquerque.

"Raimi is a phenomenal athlete," Pinckley said. "She's very focused, very driven and she wants to win. She knows what it takes to win and that's why she's so dedicated."

VanOtteson capped off a consistent season by taking eighth. He was 23 points in front of the diver in ninth.

PV's 200-yard medley team of Dominique Tso, Sheala Moffitt, Emilee Lucero and Kathleen Ketchum cut eight seconds off their fastest time of the year and earned 15th place for it.

Piedra Vista's Sheala Moffitt competes in the 100-yard breaststroke consolation race on Saturday at Albuquerque Academy.

The Lady Panthers' 400-yard freestyle team of Morgan Miller, Ketchum, Lucero and Tso didn't place, but also cut eight seconds off their previous best time.

Piedra Vista's Sheala Moffitt competes in the 200m breaststroke consolation race at on Saturday at Albuquerque Academy.

"That core group of girls almost always has personal bests. There's only one time I can think of this year where they didn't," PV coach Kristi Lucero said. "That's incredible at a state meet to show up and cut that much time off."

Lucero said she had a ball coaching the swimmers on her 2015-2016 roster, and that things got emotional after the meet was completed.

"We cried, we all cried," she said. "From day one, really, they've given 110 percent. I'm just very proud of them, and we're looking forward to coming back next year and doing even better."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.