The Fort Payne Aquacats sent five young swimmers to participate in three events at the first day of the ARPA State Meet Friday at the Birmingham Crossplex.
The Aquacats’ 8-under girls 100-yard medley relay team entered the pool first. Lauren Woods, Brindlee Walston, Rachel Clayton and Anna Beth Traylor teamed up at the start of the meet and finished third in their heat against nine other relay teams.
Brindlee stayed near the pool as she prepared for her last individual race of the year. She qualified for state in the 8-under 25-yard breaststroke with a 24.22.
She blasted through the water and beat her previous time by nearly two seconds. Her 22.82 was good enough for third in her heat.
Brindlee’s twin brother, Aiden, was the last Aquacat to race against the best in the state Friday.
Aiden qualified in the 8-under 25-yard freestyle after clocking a 19.60 at the District Championship meet. He wasn’t quite as fast at state, but he was only one second slower with 20.66.
The Walston twins both made it to the state meet despite this being their first season with the Aquacats.
Assistant coach Angie Westbrook said all the kids at state worked extremely hard to get there.
“If you saw how hard these kids worked on their events, you wouldn’t be surprised to see them here,” Westbrook said. “The relay teams have really worked on trying to improve their times during practice. They always seem to swim a little faster and put all of their heart into it when we’re at a meet or a big event like this.
Westbrook said that the Westbrook twins have shown a natural talent in the water.
“Aiden and Brindlee have done awesome in their first year swimming,” Westbrook said. “They’ve both worked really hard all year, and I can’t believe they got all the way to state in their individual events. These kids are very dedicated to the sport, and they’ve shown that all season.”
The Aquacats have another day to look forward to at the state meet. The 8-under girls 100-yard freestyle relay team will compete against the best in the state Saturday morning. The team consists of Clayton, Traylor, Brindlee Walston and Anna Lynn Henderson.
Cullen Roberts qualified to compete in the 11-12 boys 100-yard individual medley and the 50-yard butterfly. He was unable to compete for being out of town with family.
Westbrook said the amount of events that kids qualified for shows how well the program is doing.
“If people saw how excited these kids get for the season, they’d realize how big of a deal this is to them,” Westbrook said. “These kids can’t wait for the season to start, and they put everything they can into this. Having this many kids compete at state is great to see and great for the program. I wish we could do more for these kids because they deserve it.”