The Wylie Swim Program took a historic leap forward this school year, and it’s safe to say Wylie swimmers will be making more history in the coming years.
The district added swimming at the Junior High level, which is a first not only for Wylie, but for Abilene. Neither Abilene High or Cooper has a Junior High program.
The 31 Junior High swimmers competed at their first swim meet in February, and swimmer Diego Duarte from Wylie West Junior High became Wylie’s first ever Junior High event winner.
Kenzee Petty and Maria Brigino from Wylie East Junior High also medaled at the event.
Overall, the teams performed very well, said Wylie Swim Coach Casey Pacheco.
“We actually finished pretty good,” he said. “A lot of these teams are established and have tons of kids and our kids got in there and competed with them. We had multiple Top 10 finishes and multiple Top 3 finishes. We actually got a lot of compliments from a lot of the coaches.”
Wylie has long had a small swim team at the High School level, but the program has been plagued by revolving coaches.
“Wylie has always had really big potential, but it has never had the consistency to develop the program,” Pacheco said. “I believe in it.”
Pacheco comes to Abilene with 17 years of swim coach experience. He has coached at McMurry the last four years as head swim coach and before that he led the program at Abilene High and Cooper.
When Superintendent Joey Light was looking for a new swim coach this past summer, he reached out to Pacheco. The timing was right. Pacheco’s son, Tiegan, was about to be a freshman at Wylie, and he had told his dad he wanted to swim.
But Pacheco had one condition before accepting the job. Wylie had to start a Junior High program.
“I’ve always wanted a Junior High program,” Pacheco said. “I tried for seven years to get one in the AISD. Once he said yes to a Junior High program, I was all in. I get the opportunity to not only coach my son but also build a program.”
Pacheco said he was excited about the Junior High program, but he had no idea how much interest there would be.
“I got a call in the middle of the summer saying the counselors were getting overwhelmed with calls. I was thinking maybe 10 or 15 kids.”
So he set a date for a tryout.
“Me and my wife pulled up to the pool that evening and there was a line of 50 people out the back door of the YMCA to try out for Junior High swim,” he said. “It was pretty mind boggling to be honest.”
The team ended up with 31 members. Pacheco said most of the ones who did not make the team were students who realized they couldn’t juggle swimming with another sport.
Technically Wylie has an East Junior High boys and girls team and a West Junior High boys and girls team. At their first meet, the West girls finished 4th and the East girls finished 5th. The East boys finished 4th and the West boys finished 5th. There were 10 teams competing.
Pacheco said the Junior High program will feed the High School team and make it stronger.
“All of these schools that we swim against, Andrews, Monahans, Pecos, they’ve had junior high programs for years,” Pacheco said. “They were getting a two-year advantage on us.”
Pacheco said Wylie was getting kids as freshmen and had to spend two years teaching them the strokes. They weren’t competitive until their Junior and Senior years.
“Now it gives these kids two years to be 7th and 8th-grade swimmers, to learn the sport and then be competitive as freshmen,” he said.
He said the high school swim team was a small group and rarely added more than one or two new members a year. This year he has two seniors, both of whom are very good swimmers. The program will lose those two but he has thirteen 8th-grade swimmers ready to move up with a year of swimming already under their belt.
“I actually have a 7th-grader who is beating a lot of our high school kids, and they are like, can he come up now?” Pacheco said. “They are getting excited about being able to compete not only individually but in the team scores.”
Pacheco said he is glad that he made the decision to move to Wylie. Coaching at the college level meant that he had to be out of town a lot. Now he and his wife Jennifer and their children go to all the meets as a family. His daughter Kanon will be in 7th-grade next year and also plans to swim.
“Dad’s been a swim coach forever, so they’ve always been around it,” he said. “I’ve never really pushed them into swimming. Now that they are both interested in it, it’s become a family affair. This has helped our family spend more time together. Instead of missing my kids’ events, now I get to not only attend my kids’ events, but we get to do it together.”
Pacheco said he was really impressed by the number of Wylie fans in the stands for the first Junior High meet.
“The stands were filled,” he said. “The Andrews coach said I can’t remember a Junior High meet with this many fans. This is awesome. At that moment, I thought, ‘We are building something special.’”