Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
The Vidor Pirates and Lady Pirates swim teams are district champions.
Swim teams from Orange County dominated the competition on Thursday night at the Beaumont ISD Natatorium as the Vidor Pirates boys swim team claimed its first every District 22-4A swim title, and the Lady Pirates successfully defended its swim title and claimed its second ever championship. The Lady Bears of Little Cypress-Mauriceville also showed their prowess in the pool by claiming second place in district.
The Lady Pirates and Pirates 200 yard medley relay teams both set the tone for the night as each claimed the coveted gold medal. The girls relay team of Carly Bessire, Gabriella Duke, Cullen Wilgers and Hannah Odom won the gold medal in 2:24.53.
The boys relay team of Damien Kirkland, Lucas Wolfe, Hunter Heidleberg and Damian Mann, which had never before defeated Nederland in a relay, came from behind in the final leg as Mann outstretched the Nederland swimmer at the wall for the victory with a time of 1:58.04, an improvement of nearly six seconds on its season best.
In the girls 200 yard freestyle, Carly Bessire of Vidor her first of two individual gold medals on the night by winning the race in a time of 2:23.58, while teammate Cullen Wilgers placed third and claimed the bronze medal in a time of 2:56.39.
In the boys 200 yard freestyle, the Pirates swept the podium and claimed the top four places. Damian Mann, a senior, won the race with a season best time of 2:16.33, while teammate Hunter Heidleberg placed second in 2:37.65. Hunter Porter of Vidor finished third in 3:14.07 and teammate Jaymes Withrow finished fourth in 3:16.89.
Eddie Dyess, a freshman at VHS, earned a silver medal in the boys 200 yard individual medley in 2:34.47.
The 50 yard freestyle is the sprint race of any swim meet, and it was Ivy Casteel of LC-M who displayed the blazing speed needed to claim the gold medal and the victory in the girls race with a time of 28.30 seconds. Fellow LC-M swimmer Sierra Clark finished in seventh place with a time of 35.90 seconds. In the boys bracket, Vidor’s Lucas Wolfe claimed the silver medal with a time of 25.40 seconds which is a personal best by 1.93 seconds.
The Pirates dominance continued as Hannah Odom claimed the first of her two individual gold medals on the night with a victory in the girls 100 yard butterfly in a time of 1:10.08. In the boys bracket, Vidor’s Hunter Heidleberg won the gold medal with a time of 1:11.86 while teammate Peter Thorne finished in second place.
In the girls 100 yard freestyle, Odom, who had just won her first medal less than five minutes before this race, captured her second gold of the night with a time of 1:01.42 and finished just ahead of LC-M’s Ivy Casteel who placed second in 1:03.04. Cullen Wilgers of Vidor finished fourth in 1:15.59, while Sierra Clark of LC-M placed fifth in 1:20.50. Shae Phillips added to the Vidor point total by finishing seventh in 1:33.11.
In the boys race, Vidor’s Damien Kirkland, a senior, secured second place and the silver medal with a time of 56.18 seconds.
Savannah Shepherd of Little Cypress-Mauriceville scorched the competition in the girls 500 yard freestyle by winning the race, and the gold medal, with a time of 6:46.29, while Gabriella Duke of Vidor used a personal best time of 7:47.34 to capture the silver medal.
Damian Mann of Vidor, the three time gold medalist in the boys 500 yard freestyle, narrowly missed out on defending his title for the fourth consecutive year as he fell just short with a second place finish in 5:59.15 but ahead of teammate Jaymes Withrow who placed third and earned the bronze medal.
With the 200 yard freestyle relay, the Lady Pirates put a stranglehold on the district title and left no doubt they would repeat as champions as the team of Bessire, Phillips, Wilgers and Odom won the gold medal in 2:12.73.
The Vidor boys relay team of Mann, Dyess, Wolfe and Kirkland secured another gold medal for the unit by winning the boys 200 yard freestyle relay in 1:49.42, more than 17 seconds ahead of runner-up Nederland.
Carly Bessire claimed her second gold medal of the night in dramatic fashion by using a come from behind final leg in the girls 100 yard backstroke to outstretch a Nederland swimmer at the finish by .51 seconds with a time of 1:11.05. Vidor’s Shae Phillips finished in sixth place with a time of 1:56.65.
In the boys 100 yard backstroke, Vidor’s Damien Kirkland placed third in 1:16.08 and claimed the bronze medal. Teammates Hunter Porter and Peter Thorne placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in the same race.
Gabriella Duke claimed her second silver medal of the night as the Vidor freshman used a time of 1:54.24 to place second in the girls 100 yard breaststroke. However, with the district title still up for grabs in the boys division, the Pirates slammed the door shut on Nederland’s hopes with a one-two punch delivered by Eddie Dyess and Lucas Wolfe who finished first and second, respectively. Dyess won the gold in 1:16.43, while Wolfe earned silver in 1:18.32.
The final event of the night, the 400 yard freestyle relay, saw the Vidor relay team of Heidleberg, Dyess, Thorne and Porter place second and earn the silver medal.
The Vidor Lady Pirates scored a total of 102 team points to win the district title for the second year in a row, while LC-M’s trio of swimmers finished in second place as a team with 40 points. Nederland was third with 36 team points.
The Vidor Pirates boys squad claimed its first ever district title by outpacing Nederland, 156-128. Hardin-Jefferson finished third in the point standings with 57.
Hannah Odom of the Lady Pirates also won the prestigious Female Athlete of the Meet award, while Vidor swim coach Berti Loken received a rare dual honor as Coach of the Year for the boys and girls division.
The Vidor and LC-M swim teams will travel to the greater Houston area next week for the Region 6 swim contest at Fort Bend on Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9.