Rota’s Cardenas shows teammates how it’s done
Stars and Stripes February 26, 2023
EINDHOVEN, Netherlands – Isabella Cardenas originally didn’t plan to compete at the European Forces Swim League Short Distance Championships.
The 16-year-old from Rota has split her time between the Tiburones and a local team in Spain that’s preparing for the Andalusian championships.
But her teammates talked her into coming back one last time.
“Since I’m the team captain, a lot of the team wanted me there for support,” Cardenas said. “So, I’m here to encourage a lot of teammates and help them through their first champs.”
Cardenas did more than give them support – she also set a benchmark for her fellow Tiburones.
The Rota swimmer set two EFSL records Sunday during the second day of the swimming championships at the Pieter van den Hoogenband Zwemstadion at the Zwemcentrum de Tongelreep in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Cardenas posted a time of 2 minutes, 24.89 seconds in the girls 15-to-16-year-old 200-meter individual medley, beating her previous mark set last year of 2:26.33. Then she capped it off with another record-breaking swim in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:08.65, eclipsing the previous best time by Mia McBride in 2020 of 1:09.09.
She came close to breaking a third record in the girls 200 freestyle, finishing in 2:12.18. The record still stands at 2:10.12.
Those were just three of the wins Cardenas had on the day, as she also collected a win in the 50 freestyle in a time of 28.12 seconds.
While Cardenas pointed to the IM and breaststroke as her top two races, she said she hoped her performance in the backstroke will leave an impression on her teammates.
“I think that me going out there and racing as hard I can sets a good example for the kids,” Cardenas said. “To know that to work hard in all of your races – whether you like them or not, if it’s your best event or not – you’ll get good results.”
Naples’ Avery DeBoer set a meet mark for the 10-year-old girls 50 backstroke Sunday. She recorded a time of 37.56 seconds, beating Halladay Kinsey’s 2011 time by 0.03 seconds.
DeBoer admitted it was her worst stroke, but when she saw her qualifying time was less than 0.75 of a second slower than the EFSL top time, she put in extra effort.
“I’ve been practicing it since divisionals a few months ago because I was surprisingly super close in it,” DeBoer said. “All day, I’ve been trying to make all the records, and this is my first one.”
It was just one success for DeBoer, who swept every individual event in her age group. On Sunday alone, she won the 200 IM (2:58.94), 50 freestyle (31.24) and the 100 freestyle (1:09.69). DeBoer missed out on breaking the 100 freestyle record by 0.63 seconds.
She wasn’t the only one to take every individual race in an age group. Joining her were Emma Heaphy of Kaiserslautern in the under-8 girls division, Benthe de Beer of Geilenkirchen in the 9-year-old girls division, Elijah Love of Stuttgart in the 10-year-old boys division and Mason Koeth of Wiesbaden in the 17-18 boys division.
Koeth came up just short twice of joining Cardenas and DeBoer in setting records. The 17-year-old missed out by 0.32 of a second in the 50 freestyle with a time of 24.64 seconds, and he followed that by missing out by 0.2 of a second in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:02.84. Koethe also started the first 50 meters of the 200 freestyle on pace to break Will Viana’s 2009 record of 1:57.82, but faded to a 2:02.49.
Not that Koethe will complain much about his results in the pool this weekend.
“It was a little disappointing, but for me, I don’t think breaking the record is as important as just getting your personal time,” Koeth said. “Just looking back and seeing I swam those times and I was able to beat my personal best, I think that’s nice.”
Heaphy is just at the start of her swimming career, but she’s already following in her family’s footsteps.
The 8-year-old’s eldest brother, John, competes with Arizona State as a redshirt junior, and other siblings also raced this weekend in Eindhoven. Emma said she looks up to John.
“My big brother, he’s the fastest,” Emma Heaphy said. “I just copy him, and I just want to be just as fast.”
Although some such as DeBoer and Heaphy are just getting started, Koeth and Cardenas are ending their careers – at least in Europe. Koeth is graduating, while Cardenas’ family is moving back to the States.
For Cardenas, though, it isn’t in the end. She said she’s going to pursue the sport beyond the high school level.
“I’m going to see how far I can go,” Cardenas said. “I love this sport, and I think when you love something as much as I do, there’s no limits.”