Amid the celebration of another successful season Saturday, Dripping Springs Tiger senior Lydia Evans couldn’t hold back tears as she shared a bear hug with head coach Andrea McCarthy.
With several key components having graduated from last year’s 5A state title winning team, Evans and McCarthy knew trying to repeat was going to be a tough act to follow.
Through a concerted team effort all season long, the Tigers finished as the 15th best girls program in Texas, which culminated in another trip to the UIL state meet at the Lee and Joe Jamail Swim Center.
For McCarthy, reaching state once again was a huge accomplishment. Building life-long relationships with her students, however, far surpassed how they finished in the standings.
“I’m not always sure who wins what or how we placed. What I remember is the relationships we have,” McCarthy said. “This team is a family and I’m going to miss my seniors.”
Team camaraderie was a pivotal motivator for Tiger senior London Farris, who secured a pair of top-ten finishes in both of her individual events.
It was her teammates, however, who pushed Farris to keep swimming in 2019. Farris said there was a time when she toyed with the idea of sitting her senior year out, worried that she might have peaked too soon following the 2018 team title.
A strong connection with teammates, as well as being comfortable in the water, ultimately led to success not only for herself, but also for her fellow swimmers, Farris said. The experience was equally beneficial for many of the Tiger underclassmen, who got their first taste of competition at the state level, Evans said.
“It was just amazing and it made me so happy to have first time swimmers (at state) get to see how it was,” Evans said.
Getting back to state also meant working just a little bit harder, too. Compounding the pressure was the expectation of returning to state, not just as the reigning state champions, but also as a program that has consistently had athletes compete in Austin.
“It can be tough because you feel like it’s almost a given to come back, so you might feel a little lazy with training or races,” Farris said. “It’s definitely a challenge to come back and be better than you were last year.”
Success in the relay events for both the boys and girls teams was the biggest surprise for McCarthy and Evans. On the girls side, Dripping Springs relay teams introduced several new swimmers, including a freshman and a sophomore.
Dripping Springs boys team, which hit the water in events such as 400-yard freestyle relay, featured only one senior in Steven LaFlamme. While there was plenty of youth in the water, McCarthy said the leadership abilities of her eight total seniors helped to guide the underclassmen.
“It’s nice to see them work as a team. Nothing ever happens just because of one person,” McCarthy said. “Especially on relays, everyone has to work together and be successful to make it to state.”
It was a team mentality that McCarthy had in mind when she was honored as the 2018 Texas High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year Saturday. While it was an individual award, McCarthy said she accepted it as a “team of the year” honor.
Evans said McCarthy has impacted her life, not only just in the pool, but also as a person and a mentor for the program. Evans was ultimately happy to see all Tiger swimmers make it past prelims to the final day of competition.
“Even if we didn’t swim the best times today, that’s okay. As a senior, I’m happy to be here (at state),” Evans said.