Dominance continued: SL teams take district titles

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At South Lafourche, there is something of a streak taking place.

For the past 13 consecutive years, the Tarpons’ boys’ swimming team has won the annual Bayou District Championship Meet at the Cut Off Youth Center, the event in which area high school teams compete for local supremacy.

For the past 11 years, the Tarpons’ girls’ team has won the same event in their classification.

The 2013 version of the meet was no different, as South Lafourche was the runaway champion in the boys’ and girls’ final team rankings. The Tarpons’ boys’ team finished with a score of 569, over 200 points higher than second-place Terrebonne (335 points).

The Tarpons’ girls’ team scored a 500.5. That was more than 200 points higher than second-place Terrebonne (274.5) and South Terrebonne (274).

South Lafourche also went a perfect 6-for-6 in individual medleys at the event, held each year at the Cut Off Youth Center in Cut Off.

Among the Tarpons’ individual accomplishments, senior Jordan Galliano won the girls’ 200-yard medley relay, and junior Cody Guidry took home the boys’ 200-yard medley, 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke.

Natalie Dufrene, named co-MVP of the girls’ classification, won the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles while Tarpons freshman Alexandra Lafont won the 200-yard individual medley.

Nick Guidry won the boys’ 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke, Braxton Bourda took home the boys’ 100-yard butterfly event, and Jean Pitre won the boys’ 100-yard freestyle.

According to Tarpons coach Corey Callais, the team annually uses its winning streak at the district meet as a motivation tool.

“We have a lot of talented swimmers,” said Callais. “We use that streak to challenge everyone. You don’t want to be that senior group that’s going to end the streak.”

No worries there.

At the Cut Off event, temperatures may have struggled to climb above 70 degrees, but South Lafourche swimmers felt right at home despite the slightly chilly conditions.

Participants could be seen wincing as they dipped into the water for the first time at the event, but once the whistle sounded and the races were off and running, everything seemed to fall into place – just as it has for the past decade-plus for South Lafourche.

“We kind of have this legacy now that we’ve set forth,” said Guidry, a senior who was named co-MVP of the boys’ classification with teammate Cody Guidry and has been participating in swimming since the age of 4. “We don’t want to be the class that ruins it so it’s a little extra motivation for us. We win every year and we don’t want to make this the year we don’t.”

Another motivating factor for the Tarpons is the competition they face – not just from other schools, but within themselves.

Guidry said the boys’ and girls’ teams constantly challenge themselves during practice and inspire each other with a few good-natured barbs.

“There’s always a little friendly competition,” Guidry said. “Last year, the girls (finished) third at state and the boys got fourth. There was a little bit of trash talking, but it’s all in fun and it’s not serious. Even though we’re separate teams, we’re all one big team and we like to encourage each other.”

Part of what has helped South Lafourche stay so consistent over the years is having a strong feeder program in the Cut Off and Larose summer leagues each year.

Although the league has no direct affiliation with South Lafourche, keeping area youth involved in the sport before they reach the high school level has paid big dividends and helped the Tarpons maintain a strong reputation.

“When we took over, we started a different attitude as far as building everything up,” said Callais. “You build up your numbers and you lose great seniors. I’m losing another group of great swimmers, but I’ve already looked at the summer league and we’re going to have a great group of freshmen coming in (next year).”

Perhaps more than anything, the summer league and the overall youth participation have combined to create its own winning culture within the community.

Dufrene, a senior for South Lafourche’s girls’ team, said she has participated in swimming since she was 6.

“It’s been a part of my life for so many years and it’s one of my favorite things to do,” Dufrene said. “It’s also a stress-reliever.”

Having that sort of life-blood has created a sense of tradition among local swimmers, Callais said.

“Way back when I was swimming in the summer league, I swam in this same pool,” he said. “I coached a summer team and the tradition of being part of that Cut Off-Larose team, you’re always vying for a championship. When you get a bunch of us Cajuns together, they say, ‘If I’m going to swim, I’m going to swim for a reason.’”

The only thing left to accomplish, it would seem, is a state championship. Last year, both the Tarpons’ boys and girls teams placed in the top five in that competition. They’ll get another chance next month at the state swimming meet in Sulphur.

“We get some good competition at (the district) event,” Callais said. “As far as the state competition, you just have to turn it up a notch. I give the team the rest of the week to rest and the following Monday, it’s a whole new world, especially for the freshmen that have never been there before.”

But for now, on the heels of another successful showing in district play, it doesn’t appear the Tarpons are in any danger of losing their crown as the Tri-Parish area’s best swim program.

Not when their streak doesn’t create pressure, but only serves as motivation.

“We’re hoping to continue it,” Callais said. “I know at some point the streak will end, but as long as I can use it to our advantage, I’ll continue it.”

The South Lafourche boys’ and girls’ swim teams pose for a photograph at the Cut Off Youth Center’s pool. The Tarpons have firmly established themselves as a local swimming powerhouse in the past decade of competition. South Lafourche’s boys’ team has won the district championship 13-straight seasons. The Lady Tarpons have been just as successful and have taken home the title for 11-straight years.