Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the February edition of Park Cities People.
What might be the end of an era for female swimmers at Highland Park High School coincides with a window of opportunity for their male counterparts.
The HP Blue Wave swim team has won the girls Class 4A state team title in 11 of the past 12 years, but a lack of depth and experience makes its chance of repeating this year slim.
Combine that with the prospect of moving to the new Class 6A next season, where the competition becomes much tougher, and the tradition of championships for the Blue Wave girls could be nearing an end.
Meanwhile, the HP boys are looking to make a splash in their final year at the 4A level by contending for their first team crown since 2000.
For HP, the swimming postseason consists of the Region 3 meet in Frisco this weekend, prior to the state meet on Feb. 21-22 in Austin.
There could still be some HP girls on the podium at the state meet, but more likely for individual events than the team title. Morgan King, Kate Blair and Lauren Murski should each contend for championships in their respective events.
“A lot of our talent graduated. We have a relatively young team,” said senior Morgan King. “I think it’s definitely going to be a bigger challenge to win state this year.”
Last year’s squad consisted largely of seniors who graduated, leaving just four seniors and three year-round club swimmers on the current roster. The last time the depth was so thin for HP, it finished sixth in the team standings in 2011, snapping a streak of 10 consecutive titles.
Hannah Ferrin was part of state championship teams for HP in 2008 and 2009 before becoming a standout in college at SMU, when she witnessed the team lose in 2011 for the first time in this millennium.
“It was really hard for them but it was also kind of a relief,” said Ferrin, who is in her first year as an assistant coach for the Blue Wave. “They had won so much that there was so much pressure.”
The opposite is true for the boys team, which has frequently finished in the top 10 in the team standings at state since the school’s only title in 2000, but hasn’t cracked the top spot again.
But this year, HP is unbeaten in dual meets thanks to a roster filled with varsity and year-round club experience. The Blue Wave should be especially strong in the relays, which account for the most team points, behind the quartet of Jasper Van Cauwelaert, Nick Moore, Mason Kelly, and Tommy King.
“We definitely have a really strong team this year,” said senior Aaron Garrett. “Going into state, we have tons of strong swimmers. We have such a spread.”
The record board inside the HP Natatorium has male records in several events that have stood since the 1980s, including a couple for 1984 Olympic gold medalist Mike Heath. But Ferrin said some of those might change this season, and the team’s fortunes at state might change with them.
“Our boys team has been doing phenomenally this year,” she said. “They can definitely make that podium, and they haven’t been on that podium for a long time.”