Mexico Tigers varsity girls swim team head to state championships this weekend

The Mexico High School girls varsity swim state qualifiers, from left, Riley Baxter, Carolyn Zedack, Alexa von Holtz, Abby Hinman, and Evie Fontana during a recent practice at the Mexico High School pool. They will be joined by alternate Payge Tubolino, who is not pictured. Josh St. Croix photo.

MEXICO — The Mexico High School varsity girls swim team is no longer satisfied with simply qualifying and participating at the state meet.

The Tigers are determined to contend and place on the podium in multiple events while sending the largest contingent in program history to the state championships this weekend at Ithaca College. Preliminaries will begin today and finals are scheduled for Saturday.

Mexico will be represented by five state competitors and one additional alternate, and it will compete across six different events to mark the most ever for the team.

“We have a very good shot of making it back to the finals, onto the podium, and making even more Mexico history than we already have this year,” said junior Alexa von Holtz. “I definitely think we’re going to be way more confident going in this time, knowing what to expect and seeing some of the stats from the other sections.”

Alexa von Holtz will compete in her fourth state meet, having qualified every year since becoming the first girl in school history to accomplish the feat when she a 7th-grader in 2017.

She is slated to compete in four events — solo in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly while contributing to the 200 and 400 free relay teams.

Senior Carolyn Zedack is pegged for the 500 freestyle and will join all three relays — the 200 and 400 free along with the 200 medley relay.

This year marks the first time Mexico has ever qualified three relay squads and also its first state meet with two individual competitors.

“We have one of the best teams in Mexico history right now and qualifying this many girls, we’re excited to get to go and spend time with each other,” Zedack said. “We’re seeded really well right now so there’s a chance we feel we can get back to the finals or even onto the podium.”

Zedack and von Holtz will be joined by senior Riley Baxter and sophomore Evie Fontana on the 200 and 400 free relay teams. The 200 medley relay squad will consist of Zedack, Baxter, Fontana, and senior Abby Hinman.

Hinman will serve as the alternate for the 200 and 400 free relays while freshman Payge Tubolino will join as the alternate in the 200 medley relay.

The foursome of von Holtz, Zedack, Baxter and Fontana are each making a return trip after qualifying as the 200 free relay team for the most recent state meet held in 2019. That marked the first relay team to advance to states from the program.

“I think last time we made states it was like: ‘Woo-hoo, we made states,’” Baxter said. “But this year it was more like, we were swimming the whole time to make it back and get on the podium and score points there.”

Hinman, a senior and longtime program contributor, missed the 2019 postseason while recovering from an injury.

“To be a part of this atmosphere, it’s going to be a whole new level with all three relay teams going,” Hinman said. “It’s a different competition at this point, and I’m excited to go being my first time.”

In its last appearance, the Mexico 200 free relay team placed 45th of 54 teams in the preliminary rounds.

This year’s squad enters after finishing second overall in team scores at the state qualifying meet for its best showing ever in that event, and it placed second in the Section 3 Class B championships.

“To qualify all three relays has really been a dream come true, I’m excited to go with them,” Fontana said. “I’m just going in knowing that we have a good shot, and it’s really inspiring.”

Mexico coach Shawn Parkhurst said that he believed the past qualifying experience from 2019 played a key role in maintaining motivation for returning swimmers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

That included last fall’s season being postponed until the spring due to concerns over spreading the virus, and the cancelation of all state championships last year.

He believes that prior breakthrough provided a boost of confidence and something tangible to strive for when they were eventually given the opportunity to return to a traditional season this fall.

“We were really happy (in 2019) just going to the meet and getting a relay team up, but this year, from day one this season was to go and podium relays at states,” Parkhurst said. “It was not to make states, but to make it back to the finals and try to get on the podium, and I think they put themselves in a good position to do that.”

He added: “I think this year with the mind-set approaching, it’s not just going to the meet, we’re going to compete at the state meet, not just participate in the state meet. I think that’s going to pay huge dividends.”

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