GOLDEN TIMES FOR the ‘J Squad’
Douglas High sophomore Alexander Laningham placed fifth in the 4A state diving held Saturday morning at the Carson Valley Swim Center in Minden.
Laningham scored 274.55 points, which was the best from the North. That was an improvement of 53 points from his first-place score at the region meet.
Coronado junior Timothy Newton successfully defended his title with a 482.35, followed by Green Valley sophomore Matthew Myers in second-place with a 432.15. Newton and Myers also went 1-2 in the diving at last year’s state meet.
Reno High sophomore Regan Caulfield won her second state championship with her 460.60, four points better than McKenna Houlihan of Green Valley (456.20). Galena’s Taylor Michael and Brooke Michael were third and fourth with respective scores of 444.80 and 435.45.
You’ve heard of the “A Team?” Now, meet Douglas High’s “J Squad” — Joey Smithen, Josh Smithen, Justin Hight and Joe Sullivan.
Sullivan, along with the Smithen brothers and Hight — known as the “J Squad” — combined to bring Douglas home with the 200-yard freestyle relay gold medal Saturday at the NIAA 4A Swimming and Diving Championships. The Tigers, swimming in the seventh lane, won in a school record time of 1:28.43 at the Carson Aquatic Facility in Carson City.
Coupled with Sullivan’s win in an exciting 50 freestyle earlier in the day, Douglas went on to score 57 points for third-place in the boys team standings.
The “J Squad” won in a closely contested race, just ahead of Coronado (1:29.21). Joey Smithen (22.4 split), Hight (22.5), Josh Smithen (21.93) and Sullivan (21.57) shaved more than four seconds off their Northern 4A region-winning time set one week before. Hight and Sullivan were members of the Douglas team that set the previous school record 1:30.06 at last year’s state meet in Las Vegas.
Sullivan was inserted into the lineup after the region meet and the senior delivered a clutch anchor performance. The Tigers were third after the leadoff leg, improved to second at the midway mark of the race and then Josh Smithen challenged for the lead on his third leg. Even so, Sullivan wasn’t exactly sure where the Tigers were when he hit the water.
Afterward, he simply smiled and explained that he went as hard as he could.
“Being anchor is tough … especially when you’re in the outside lane,” Sullivan said. “When you anchor and pull your team forward, there’s not a better feeling.”
While Tigers came in as region champions, their outside lane draw was due to qualifying with the sixth fastest time.
“We were going for this,” Douglas coach Greg Taylor said. “We are always going for the win. The record was an added bonus.”
Sullivan’s win in the 50 freestyle was every bit as exciting as the top four finished together in lanes 3-4-5-6 — all separated by four-hundredths of a second. Sullivan clocked a 21.94 in Lane 5. Alexsander Johannesen of Valley took second (21.97) in Lane 6 and Hunter Mecham of Green Valley was third (21.98) in Lane 4. Palo Verde’s Dylan Sweikert, the 2016 state 50 freestyle runner-up, was fourth (22.0) in Lane 3.
Sullivan offered a brief and direct description of the race afterward.
“It was super close,” he said, flashing a smile.
Taylor felt one key to Sullivan’s victory was the opening 15 yards.
“That was one of his best starts,” the coach said. “His start-to-15 time was really good. He started inching ahead and held it on the turn.”
Joey Smithen placed fourth (54.23, eight-tenths of a second faster than his region time) and Hight sixth (54.23) in the 100 backstroke, while Sullivan placed fourth in the 100 freestyle (48.80). Hight also placed fifth in the 100 butterfly (53.92).
Douglas placed eighth in the 200 medley relay as Taylor Knowles, Chris Manning, Joey Smithen and Daniel Taylor finished in 1:46.01.
Palo Verde outdistanced Coronado by a 115-72 score to capture the boys team championship.
On the girls side, Douglas placed sixth in the 200 medley relay as Kaela Forvilly, Sarah Hyatt, Kaila Duffy and Taylor Sullivan clocked a time of 1:54.80. Cailey Tollman also placed seventh in the 500 freestyle (5:27.68).
Note: The start of swimming was delayed one hour due to the diving competition at the Carson Valley Swim Center in Minden. At least two of the divers were scheduled to swim for their schools in the 200 medley relay.