Sixth Sparkman swimmer qualifies for state sectionals, most since 2019

By Derek Brenton

HUNTSVILLE – Sparkman’s Vladimir Smith became the latest in a parade of Senators swimmers this season to qualify for the Nov 17-18 State Sectionals with his performance in the 50 Yard Freestyle at the Grissom Halloween Invitational on Saturday. With more than a third of the team’s roster now qualified in individual events, Sparkman will send the most swimmers to the regional State Meet qualifier in Huntsville since 2019.

Smith, a junior, had been knocking on the door of the AHSAA Class 7A men’s qualifying time of 27.99 seconds all season when he shaved off 0.37 seconds to get to 27.97. Smith will join senior Alex Bratton (26.3), junior Quintellis Darden II (22.80), and senior Josiah Williams (26.71) from the Sparkman men’s team as swimmers eligible to opt into the event at Sectionals. On the women’s side, against a Sectionals qualifying time of 30.99, the Senators can be represented by Monrovia Middle School seventh grader Bella Minnon (29.11) and eighth grader Lynden West (29.46).

Swimmers can only choose to enlist in two individual events at Sectionals. With two “Last Chance” events remaining on the season for swimmers to get in more qualifying times, four members of the Sparkman Swim Team have qualified for the penultimate meet of the season in more than two events: Darden (8), Minnon (5), West (4) and Bratton (3).

Darden, the only member of this year’s team to have progressed through Sectionals to the State Meet in Auburn before, now has a qualifying time in all eight possible individual events: 200 Individual Medley, 50 Free, 100 Butterfly, 100 Free, 200 Free, 500 Free, 100 Backstroke, and 100 Breaststroke. At Sectionals, to be able to move on to the season finale, swimmers must achieve a Top 3 finish in their event or record a more restrictive qualifying time. If he can duplicate his regular season performances, Darden has already posted times meeting championship qualifications in five events (200 Free, 50 Free, 100 Fly, 100 Free, 100 Back) and has been close in the 200 IM and 100 Breast.

Senior Jordan Breton, juniors Kaitlin and Mikayla Finucane, Monrovia Middle School eighth graders Sophie Lee, Mega Zaremba, Jayden Gordon and Lillian Aguilar will all be Senators to watch over the final two regular season meets as all have times in events that are on the bubble.

Relay teams do not have a qualifying time to participate at Sectional, however, the men’s relay team of Darden, Smith, Williams and Bratton almost met the State Meet qualifying time of 1:52.59 when they recorded 1:56.06 at the Wildcat Invitational earlier this year. Sparkman has not sent a relay team to the state championship since 2012 when relay teams for both the men and women qualified. The only tie this Senators team has to that one is current Senator junior Matthew Hammer being the younger sibling of Kayla Hammer who was on that team.

The relay team of Monrovia seventh grade student Kipten West, Smith, Bratton, and sophomore Cameron Thompson finished 12th in the 200 Medley on Saturday at 2:15.34. The four also placed eighth in the 200 Free Relay at 1:59.88. For the women it was Lee, Lynden West, Minnon and Aguilar who took 11th with 2:16.83 in the 200 Medley and Aguilar, Mikayla Finucane, freshman Mya Ceideburg and Lynden West who took 11th in the 200 Free Relay (2:06.53). Kaitlyn Finucane, Lee, Mikayla Finucane and Zaremba combined for a 10th place finish in the 400 Free Relay in 5:00.90.

Darden and Minnon once again paved the way for Sparkman on Saturday. Darden claimed second place in the 50 Free with a time of 22.80, coming in just behind Huntsville’s Luke Bedsole (21.10). He finished fourth in the 100 Breast (1:07.67) where winner Mason Kimball of Huntsville finished in 1:05.15. Minnon placed fifth in the 100 Fly at 1:08.96 and eighth in the 200 IM (2:38.25). Minnon has earned qualifications thus far in the 200 IM, 50 Free, 100 Fly, 100 Free, and 100 Back.

Bratton, who has qualified in the 50 and 100 Free and the 100 Back, took ninth in the 100 Free with a time of 58.5 seconds.

Two Sparkman swimmers displayed significant improvement on Saturday from where their season’s had started. Sophomore Cameron Thompson recorded a time in the 200 Free of 2:50.92, a 20.1 second improvement from times only five weeks prior. Breton displayed similar impressiveness with her 18.987 second improvement in the 500 Free (7:51.25).

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