NEW CANEY, Texas -- Texas High's 26-year stranglehold on winning the boys regional swimming and diving championship came to an end at New Caney ISD's Natatorium.
The TigerSharks placed third in a talent-laden Region IV-5A Swimming and Diving Championships that included Kingwood Park and Lucas Lovejoy, which finished 1-2 in the boys division. Kingwood Park rolled up 366 points, Lovejoy had 343 and Texas High 335.
In the girls bracket, Texas High had 79 points to share seventh place. Kingwood Park (482 points) and Lovejoy (363 points) were 1-2 in the girls and combined divisions. Texas High was fourth in combined score with 414 points.
"We had a good meet at regionals, even though our boys lost the 26-year streak of placing first in regional," said Texas High swimming and diving coach Eric Vogan, who has guided the TigerSharks the last 20 years. "Eli Likins was boys' swimmer of the meet and somehow I was boys swimming and diving coach of the meet," said Vogan, who also was regional coach of the meet last year.
"We qualified for state in two boys relays and in five individual events."
Texas High's girls had only five participants in the regional, but still managed to finish tied for seventh out of 19 teams.
"All our girl swam their best times in all events, I believe," Vogan said. "They did a great job."
The TigerSharks were moved into a different region a couple of years ago. Now they are in Region 4 at New Caney, which is about 35 miles northeast of Houston.
"We're in a totally different regional than we had been in," Eli Likins said. "This region is stronger and has better competition and is located close to Houston (275 miles from Texarkana). But we hope to return to winning the boys regional championship like we did for all those years."
Likins, a senior, captured first place in his two individual events, the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke. He was clocked in 1:40.45 in the 200 event, beating his younger brother Max Likins (1:43.43).
"I think I was a little off my team record in the 200 free, but I set a team record in the 100 backstroke (50.50)," Eli said.
Eli also swam on Texas High's 200 medley relay (1:37.60) that placed second and on the 200 freestyle relay that finished third (1:29.17).
The Tigers' foursome of Max Likins, Nash Orena, Eli Likins and Dayton Whiseant were on the 200 medley relay while the 200 freestyle relay featured Eli Likins, Whiseant, Orena and Max Likins.
The top two regional finishers (eight regions) qualify for state as do the next eight fastest times in the state.
"I think our 200 freestyle relay will probably be fast enough to qualify for state," Eli said.
Swimmers are limited to competing in four events, Eli added.
"I think I finished fifth in the 100 backstroke in last year's state meet and I was seventh in the 100 freestyle," he said. "Those are my two best events and I'm hoping for a podium (top 3) finish in both of them. That would be great."
Eli has not had a top 3 finish in the state meet.
Max, a junior, was runner-up to his older brother in the 200 freestyle, but he took home the gold medal in the 500 freestyle, winning with a 4:40.79 clocking.
"Max did great in regional," Eli said.
Two older Likins brothers are were members of Texas High's swimming and diving team. Owen Likins swam four years for the TigerSharks before going to Texas Tech to compete in cross country track. Evan swam for Texas High and then ran his freshmen season at Texas State, but he stopped competing after one year.
"None of my brothers have won an event at the state swimming and diving meet," Eli said. "Evan won the 800 meters at the state track meet, but he didn't win at the state swim meet and none have finished in the top 3. That's my personal goal this year, to had a podium finish."
Texas High's top finish in the regional diving was Cade Cunningham, who placed third in the 1-meter diving, beating his teammate Aiden Young, who placed fourth. Cunningham totaled 255.75 points and Young had 216.25. The winner had 324.25 points.
The Class 5A state swimming and diving meet will be Feb. 23-24 at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center on the University of Texas at Austin campus.