The two Amarillo High boys swimmers headed to the Class 5A state meet in Austin don’t have experience on their side.
But they just might make up for it in talent.
At least those are the hopes for freshman Alexander Purdy and sophomore Lance Dykhouse starting Friday morning at the Joe Jamail Swimming Center at the University of Texas. Purdy has qualified for two events while Dykhouse will be competing in one.
AHS coach Ron Lee isn’t feigning surprise on how far Purdy and Dykhouse have come this season.
“We knew that we looked strong up against competition and I really expected both of these boys to get in,” Lee said.
Of the two Purdy has particularly lived up to expectations. In his first year of high school swimming, he made it to Austin by winning both the 100-yard backstroke and 100 butterfly at the Region I-5A meet in Lubbock. Dykhouse finished two spots behind Purdy in the 100 back, but swam a fast enough time to earn one of eight call-up spots for the state meet along with the 16 automatic qualifiers.
There was no doubt about Purdy’s status for the state meet after his two regionals. It showed he’s peaking at the right time, as he swam a 51.37 seconds in the 100 back and 51.55 in the 100 fly.
“I set two personal bests and haven’t done that at a meet since November,” Purdy said. “It was a real struggle for me to get back to where I was and improve. The two weeks before that I trained really hard so I would somewhat be back in shape.”
The plan appears to have worked. At this point in the season for swimmers who are good enough to still be competing, they’ve cut down their training yardage, more commonly known in swimming circles as tapering.
Purdy says this kicks in during the competition.
“The tapering I’m usually not feeling it as it happens,” Purdy said. “It’s kind of during the meet, where you feel it during the first warmup. Also you feel that anxiety and it just gets your heart pumping. It’s nice because your muscles get more bloodflow.”
The 100 back is Purdy’s strongest event, and he’s seeded No. 6 for the state meet. He’s the No. 8 seed in the 100 fly.
However, at the region meet, Purdy was scheduled to swim the 100 fly first. After winning gold in that, he was ready for the 100 back.
“Before that race I was anxious and nervous because I had a friend Zev Benjamin (from El Paso) and we were talking and it was going to be close no matter what,” Purdy said. “I didn’t expect to know what was going to happen in that race. After that race I felt more confident for everything else. I just felt relaxed.”
Benjamin will be going to state in both races as well, but he was an automatic qualifier for state by virtue of finishing second to Purdy both times.
Purdy isn’t a favorite to win at state, but he could be a darkhorse to medal in the 100 back. Lee wouldn’t be shocked by that.
“He definitely had his best swims at the right time of the year,” Lee said of Purdy. “He’s going to probably need to go sub-50 in the back to medal. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a 49 or faster to medal. I don’t think it’s out of the possibility.”
Purdy isn’t shy about his ambitions for state.
“I’m planning on getting a medal,” Purdy said. “To get there I’m training a lot more. My muscles are ready to go and I can drop time.”
Purdy has been swimming competitively for nine years, which means his entire school career. He’s shown that he has the potential to be the first Amarillo High boys swimmer to bring home a medal in over three decades.
At least that’s the way Lee sees it.
“I think that he’ll continue to go far and do well,” Lee said of Purdy. “He’ll break records throughout his high school career. He did swim incredibly fast this year. I didn’t really know how fast I expected him to swim, but he did impress me.”
As good as Purdy’s been, he’s looking to do better.
“My expectations of myself were a little bit higher than what I’m at right now,” :Purdy said. “It’s just little things that need to keep improving to get where I want to be.
Dykhouse didn’t quite have those expectations entering this season, his second on the Amarillo High varsity. He didn’t even have them after finishing the region meet.
With a third place finish in the region meet of 54.34, Dykhouse was almost three seconds behind teammate Purdy. Dykhouse thought he’d finished his season, like most other swimmers in the state.
Three days later, it was official he’d been picked up for the state meet.
“I was not expecting to go to state at all,” Dykhouse said. “I was expecting to go to regionals and be done for the year. I was almost in awe that I made it to state.
“I was absolutely happy with my time. I’m happy every time I beat my time.”
Dykhouse’s time at regions was a personal best, at exactly the right time. If he was uncertain about his status for the state meet, Lee wasn’t.
“I was almost certain he would get picked up,” Lee said. “I think they’re both gifted in the 100 back. I guess they do kind of push each other. Making it to state is a victory in and of itself, but if he finals that’s the icing on the cake.”
Each event at the state meet features 24 competitors swimming in three heats. The eight fastest will advance to Saturday’s finals.
It will be the biggest stage Dykhouse has ever performed on, which will be a challenge in and of itself.
“I’m definitely going to be nervous considering that there’s some high level swimmers who go,” Dykhouse said. “There are some college scouts who come to watch. I’d like to get somewhere around a 52 (to make Saturday’s finals).”
This is the first time in three years that Amarillo High has had an individual swimmer make it to the state meet. In 2020, Baron Robertson qualified for the boys and Mady Monroe did the same for the girls.
The last time AHS had anyone win a medal at the state swim meet was in 2017, when the boys 200 medley relay team of Thomas Olson, Stetson Talley, Matt O’Sullivan and Bill Robertson brought home a bronze medal.
While Purdy is thinking a medal, Dykhouse is happy to be there.
“I was thinking that I had a chance but about halfway through the year I started to lose hope,” Dykhouse said. “I’m so happy that I actually made it.”