South’s Lizada, Lady Falcons to compete at state

LYFORD – The East Valley will be represented by a handful of talented athletes today at the Class 6A girls swimming & diving state meet in San Antonio.

Los Fresnos is sending six athletes to the Bill Walker Pool and Josh Davis Natatorium. Sophomore standout Jada Ashford will be competing in Heat 1 in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races. Ashford, sophomore Ariana Mancillas, senior Rebeca Osuna and junior Maria Jimena Trevino will be racing as a team in Heat 1 of both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.

Los Fresnos senior Anapaula Hernandez also is heading to state as the 16th-ranked qualifier in the girls 1-meter dive.

The girls swimming & diving meet was postponed by one week due to the winter storm that rolled through Texas and caused electrical issues at the facilities. The state meet, like the Region IV meet, will be one long day instead of the usual two day event. Preliminary swim races will begin at 10 a.m., the diving competition will be at 2 p.m. and the swimming finals will commence at 5 p.m.

Harlingen South senior Camille Conlu Lizada will be racing in Heat 1 of the 100 butterfly. This will be Lizada’s third state trip in her stellar career, and with the field being narrowed due to COVID-19, she said qualifying meant more and she’s looking forward to the increased competitiveness.

“With the circumstances we were under this year, I didn’t even think we’d have a season. I’m really honored to be able to represent my school and my district, and to do it for myself and my school one last time,” Lizada said.

“It’s usually the top two from each region that advance, and this year we all really had to battle it out because it was just No. 1 that could go,” she continued. “That adds more pressure, knowing that everybody there is the best of the best in the state. (Qualifying) was a lot more special this time around because I’ve never qualified for state as the winner, I’ve always gone as second. It was definitely a good way to cap off my high school swimming career.”

Lizada was been swimming for more than half of her life, and the experience she’s gained from competing with Harlingen Aquatics prepared her for the challenges of the single-day meet format the regional and state meets took on this year. Lizada said John Tucker, her coach with Harlingen Aquatics, has been “a really strong propelling factor” in her swim career and expressed gratitude for him being like a second dad and making her a better swimmer.

Harlingen South swim coach Hector Castaneda said he’s confident Lizada will be able to swim her best at state. He credited Lizada for putting in the work to prepare physically and to get mentally tough enough to compete at the highest level.

Lizada is one of South’s captains, and Castaneda said she sets a good example for her teammates in and out of the pool. He praised the “hard work and dedication she puts in daily” as a swimmer and also her commitment to the community service the Hawks do as a team.

“I’m really proud of her and everything she’s done, as a captain and an individual. I hope she takes everything that I’ve preached throughout the years about family and helping others with her the rest of her life, and I know she will,” Castaneda said.

As her Hawks career comes to a close, Lizada said she hopes she left a positive impact on her teammates and the South program that exemplifies her work ethic and caring spirit.

“I hope they picked up that hard work really does pay off,” Lizada said. “The more time you put into something the better you get at it and the more you get out of it. But also, how you perform isn’t the value you have as a person, it’s the work ethic and everything else that you put in that matters more than just the race.”