Fun atmosphere leads to new best times at Vaquero Battle


Samantha Freeman

Coppell junior swimmer Shreya Tirumala competes in the varsity girls 50-yard butterfly at the Vaquero Battle at the Coppell YMCA on Friday. The semi-annual meet recognizes members of the Coppell varsity and JV swim team, as well as their teachers, in 23 events, including a teacher appreciation relay and a face-off with the CHS basketball team. Photo by Samantha Freeman.

Joanne Kim, Staff Writer

It is the boys 100-yard freestyle event, and Coppell junior swimmer Cole Tramel is up on the diving board next to teammates junior Ivan Lau and senior Johan Pretorius. 

In last year’s Vaquero Battle, Pretorius won four of the five events, and was the only swimmer to make it to state last season, and he and Lau both had faster seed times than Tramel. The swimmers wait for the sound of the beep, then dive into the water to compete in a tight race. 

Swim team members, teachers and students alike are all cheering loudly from the sidelines, and at the very last moment, Tramel pulls ahead in an unforeseen victory. 

“[I] really wasn’t expecting to win at all,” Tramel said. “I really wanted to, but I wasn’t expecting it. I think this win shows that I’m doing pretty good this season. [This] is just like a benchmark for me, and it’s an encouraging sign that I’ll probably do well this season.”

In the small pool of the Coppell YMCA on Friday, many more unexpected achievements like this were made. According to Coppell coach Marieke Mastebroek, this is all in thanks to the enjoyable atmosphere.

“The interesting thing is, since this is the third time we’re running [the Vaquero Battle], I’ve noticed that the kids actually swim best times in this funny little pool. And I think that it’s because they’re having a great time,” Mastebroek said. “We’re making a meet that is actually really fun for the audience, and in a way, we’re celebrating the sport of swimming. And so the goal was to just have a great time and have a lot of fun, and the times that the kids swam were just a bonus.”

There were eight events for both boys and girls: the 100-yard freestyle, the 25-yard underwater dolphin kick, the 50-yard freestyle with fins, the 50-yard butterfly, the 50-yard breaststroke, the 100-yard butterfly, the 100-yard breaststroke and the 100-yard backstroke. The finals, which came after back to back heats, consisted of the three fastest seed times (excluding the dolphin kick, which had six swimmers per race).

Tramel won the boys’ 100-yard freestyle, senior Connor Neeley won the boys’ 50-yard freestyle with fins, Pretorius won the boys’ 50-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke, sophomore Nathan Lim won the boys’ 50-yard and 100-yard breaststroke and senior Ritesh Dontula won the boys’ 100-yard butterfly.

For the girls, senior Aurelie Migault won three events (100-yard freestyle, 50-yard breaststroke and 100-yard breaststroke), junior Shreya Tirumala won four events (100-yard backstroke, 50-yard freestyle with fins and 25-yard underwater dolphin kick), and freshman Yuna Otsuki won the 100-yard butterfly event.

However, these events were not all the meet consisted of. Small entertainment segments also took place between races. 

The first segment was the teacher appreciation event. Multiple teachers invited by swimmers participated in a ring toss, a ball toss and a mixed 100-yard freestyle relay against JV swimmers. The winning teachers of the events received a gift card as a prize.

The second entertainment segment was a staged mock fight between three swimmers and three members of the Coppell basketball team. As a way to settle the argument, a best-of-three swim contest took place, in which the swimmers beat their lanky competitors in a crushing defeat, even though two of the three basketball players got a three second head start. 

“I was just thinking that I wanted to have fun,” said Coppell freshman swimmer Nathan Kim, who swam against sophomore basketball player Ryan Agarwal. “Nothing else much in mind, just have fun and go along with the skit.”

And this mindset of having fun was evident throughout the entirety of the meet. The cheers and laughter of the audience, along with the friendly competitive atmosphere from the swimmers, combined into a meet that was enjoyed by many of those who attended.

“[The Vaquero Battle] is a great team builder, and that’s one of the additional goals that we have,” Mastebroek said. “It’s a week before our big mid season meet. Next week we do TISCA, which is a big high level meet where you have to swim time standards, so we’re getting ready for that. So this meet is a little preview of what is coming.”

The Coppell swim teams travels to the Lewisville ISD Westside Aquatic Center tomorrow to compete in the TISCA Invitational. 

Follow Joanne @joannekkim and @SidekickSports on Twitter.